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

Sep 4, 2012  •  Post A Comment

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."


  1. The tragedy of Colorado may have had a slight effect on box office, but the bottom line is if you produce crap, no one cares and there is zero incentive to watch. Take TV for example, my finely suited friends. You stop spending money on real writers and actors and produce “reality” the audience get exponetially smaller and dumber.
    Go ahead, do a focus group or two and check the results.

  2. OR – it just might be the economy! Entertainment and media types don’t want to point a finger at “their” administration – but the failed economic policies, 8-9% unemployment and the future burden of the health care mess they created – are keeping discretionary spending out of the box office!

  3. Granted things have changed in 70+ yeras, but during the last depression was there was an upsurge in movie going and unemployment was about 25%. In fact during all major economic downturns since WWII, Hollywood saw upticks in attendance. So it’s definitely the crap that is being churned out.

  4. @Reality Check: The economy…?! Really?! Yowza, dude, you need the reality check.

  5. Dude? Really? Children should not be leaving comments! In 1929 a movie was $.27 or $3.30 in today’s dollars. Today movies cost 3 to 4 times as much, require $4 a gallon gas to drive to the multiplex and an easy $15 for popcorn and drinks. The economic impact is further exasperated by the (perceived as) free entertainment online and on TV (regardless of quality). At $3.30 people would pack the theaters even to watch less than wonderful movies. But when an evening runs $40 to $50 for a couple, the results are as they were this season. Dude!!

  6. Reality Check is either a studio exec, a marketing exec or a tea party member. All of whom are way out of touch and have a very hard time absorbing facts.

  7. Wow, Tim, an “Aren’t I witty, I’m going to bash the Tea Party” comment.
    I agree with the rest of what you have to say but am confused by the gratuitous political slam.
    Sorkin, is that you?

  8. Thanks for the compliment Bill but my bank account wouldn’t cover Sorkin’s taxes.
    The tea party reference was due to the initial “their” administration comment combined with the lack of acknowledgement of facts.

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