Box Office Report: Summer Movie Attendance Likely Lowest in Two Decades

12:02 PM PST 09/03/2012 by Pamela McClintock

Domestic box-office revenue also is down from last summer despite blockbusters "The Avengers" and "The Dark Knight Rises."

The number of people going to the movies in North America dipped noticeably this summer, putting increased pressure on the final four months of 2012 to bolster the bottom line.

According to preliminary estimates, 533.5 million tickets were sold this season, down 4 percent from last summer and the worst turnout since 1993. The previous 19-year low came in summer 2010, when there were 534.4 tickets sold.

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Total summer revenue also slipped. Initial estimates show the domestic box office generating $4.278 billion in sales, down roughly 3 percent from last summer's record $4.4 billion.

Final revenue and attendance figures will be released this week.

Summer 2012 was marked by dramatic highs and lows. Disney and Marvel Studios' The Avengers, opening May 4, kicked off the season in high style, smashing records and finishing Labor Day weekend with a worldwide gross of $1.5 billion, including a domestic haul north of $620 million.

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Warner Bros. and Legendary Pictures' The Dark Knight Rises also is a megahit, earning north of $1 billion worldwide through Labor Day and edging past 2008's The Dark Knight. However, Dark Knight Rises did notably less business domestically than Dark Knight did ($433.2 million versus $533.2 million).

The gap between domestic and foreign was even more pronounced for Fox's Ice Age: Continental Drift, which has grossed north of $828 million to date globally -- including more than $672 million overseas -- to become the second-highest-grossing animated film of all time worldwide. Domestically, the film has earned $156.1 million.

Dark Knight Rises no doubt left some money on the table because of the Aurora theater shooting during a midnight screening of Christopher Nolan's final Batman pic. It wasn't the only film impacted by the tragedy, however. Family films in particular took a hit, as did late-night showings overall.

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Avengers, Dark Knight Rises and Continental Drift will generate big profits for their respective companies, as will sleeper hit Ted, from Universal and MRC, and Warners' Magic Mike.

The summer saw several all-out bombs, including Battleship, Rock of Ages and Dark Shadows. There also were a slew of disappointments domestically, including Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter, The Dictator and Total Recall.

Hollywood studios rebooted a number of franchises to mixed results. Sony successfully relaunched  its marquee superhero franchise with The Amazing Spider-Man, while Universal has claimed success with The Bourne Legacy. Fox has said it will make Prometheus sequel; Sony has yet to announce specific plans for a follow up to Men in Black 3.

While summer box-office revenue is down in North America, the year overall is still running ahead of 2011, thanks to a strong winter and spring. Yearly revenue is roughly $7.5 million, up more than 3.3 percent over last year.

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