Warner Bros. hits billion mark

Strong final weekend propels studio past mark by $10,269

Warner Bros. had a billion-dollar summer after all.

Against all odds, the studio hit the magical milestone with an unexpectedly strong finish during the season-concluding Labor Day weekend. A week earlier, Warners domestic distribution president Dan Fellman had said it was highly unlikely its industry-leading domestic summer tally would top $1 billion.

As things turned out, the studio did -- by $10,269.

Warners was helped by its 3D horror pic "The Final Destination," which topped the North American boxoffice for a second consecutive weekend to arrive at a $50.4 million cume through 10 days of release.

Warners missed matching its industry-record performance from summer 2008, a period fattened by historically strong grosses from Batman blockbuster "The Dark Knight," by less than $20 million. The studio has topped market-share rankings the past two summers, corralling 23% of domestic boxoffice during the latest swimsuit season with "Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince," "The Hangover" and other recent releases.

"To do it two years in a row is an exceptional feat, considering that in '08 we had one movie that grossed over $500 million," Fellman said Tuesday. "It should be noted that so far this year, we had eight movies that opened No. 1, and we were No. 1 for 10 weekends."

Five of the 10 chart-topping frames came with pics produced by Warners' New Line unit.

Paramount came in second in the summer boxoffice derby with a 21% share ($885 million), led by the season's top-grossing release: the DreamWorks-produced "Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen," a $400 million grosser. Disney was third with almost 15% ($610 million) of boxoffice from "Up" and others.

Industrywide, summer '09 notched a 4% uptick in boxoffice to a record $4.3 billion. Admissions dipped 1.5% to 570 million.

The industry's new boxoffice high also was powered by a strong kick down the season's backstretch. Hollywood closed the summer with six consecutive year-over-year weekend upticks.