Summer Box Office Marked by String of Flops, With Attendance Sinking to Lowest Level in Almost 20 Years -- Labor Day Weekend Sees One Movie Earn the Dubious Distinction of Lowest Opening of All Time for a Movie in Wide Release LA Times

Despite a few key hits at the box office during the summer of 2012, the season wrapped up as a disappointment for the movie industry, with box office receipts down about 3% from last year and attendance down about 4%, the Los Angeles Times reports.

The period from May to Labor Day, which marked the end of the summer season, saw receipts of $4.3 billion -- off 3% from the comparable period in 2011, the story reports. Attendance was 533 million, the lowest number in almost 20 years, the story notes.

“Big-budget spectacles such as ‘Battleship,’ the Tom Cruise-led musical ‘Rock of Ages’ and the oddball historical horror-action movie ‘Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter’ joined the remake of the sci-fi thriller ‘Total Recall,’ the sequel ‘The Expendables 2’ and the reboot ‘The Bourne Legacy’ in the heap of misfires,” the Times reports.

Also among the lowlights was the opening over Labor Day weekend of the toddler-oriented movie “The Oogieloves in the Big Balloon Adventure,” which took in a less-than-whopping $445,089 for the three days -- “the lowest opening ever for a movie in wide release,” the report notes.

"Oogieloves," from toy mogul Kenn Viselman, was expected to end Monday with $601,545, leaving it with a feeble per-theater average of $278.

The flops during summer 2012 overshadowed the hits -- even though the season did have some big ones.

The Times reports: “In addition to ‘Avengers,’ which has grossed $620 million domestically and is still earning, Christopher Nolan's grim farewell to Gotham City, ‘The Dark Knight Rises,’ has so far earned $433 million, while another costumed crime-fighter, ‘The Amazing Spider-Man,’ has made $260 million. The surprise hit comedy ‘Ted,’ starring Mark Wahlberg and a foul-mouthed CG-animated bear, brought in $216 million. (A total of 11 pictures grossed more than $100 million this summer, compared with 15 in summer 2011.)”

The downward trend was evident early in the summer. “Box-office totals for the four-day Memorial Day weekend were off 31% from the same period a year earlier,” the Times reports. "’Men in Black 3’ drove the weekend with a respectable $70 million, but its box-office numbers couldn't compete with the 2011 Memorial Day totals driven by ‘The Hangover 2’ and ‘Kung Fu Panda 2.’"

Among the explanations experts are offering for the downtrend: record viewing for the Olympics on TV, and the July 20 massacre at a Colorado theater showing “The Dark Knight Rises,” which left 12 people dead and 58 wounded. Other observers have cited the quality of the movies themselves.

Said Jeff Goldstein, executive vice president of distribution for Warner Bros.: "You can't get away from what happened in Denver. But hanging your hat on the tragedy and saying, 'That's the problem with the end of the summer at the box office' isn't right. It comes down to the content. There were real disappointments this summer that just didn't deliver."