"It was the box-office equivalent of a roller-coaster ride," said
This year's summer frame, which is measured from the first weekend of May through
Even more dire is that both Studio System and
Some very particular factors, however, contributed to the summer's slump. One was a movie that looked, felt and played like a summer blockbuster -- "Captain America: The Winter Soldier" -- being released in early April. It has topped the yearly release chart through most of the warm weather months -- in fact, it was just displaced from the number one slot by August release "Guardians of the Galaxy" this holiday weekend. More than
Additionally, a "Fast & Furious 7" planned for release this summer was tragically delayed due to the death of star
"Those factors are huge," Dergarabedian confirmed. "One or two movies can make all the difference."
That is further evident when you compare the top grossers of summer '13 ("Iron Man 3" at
"Last year you had two films at above
Obviously, nothing came close to
Another thing working against summer 2014 was the fact that the July Fourth holiday fell on a Friday, traditionally the busiest moviegoing day of the week. With everybody expected to be at
O'Riordan also saw some weaknesses in the slate of movies released this summer.
"It suffered a little bit from sequelitis," she said. "There were a lot of comic-booky things going on. There was a lot of fanboy stuff, and that cut out a wide swath of the market. I don't think there was actually anything really aimed for younger kids. I have two young daughters, and I know a lot of people that weren't going to let their kids under 10 see 'Maleficent.' "
There was no Pixar animated release this summer, and we'll have to wait almost a year to see the third entry in the popular "Despicable Me" franchise, "Minions." DreamWorks Animation's "How to Train Your Dragon 2" was this summer's only major animated franchise entry, and it didn't do as well domestically as its predecessor.
Degarabedian pointed out, however, that while "HTTYD" made
There were no major flops this summer, which was a nice change from the losses incurred by "The Lone Ranger," "After Earth" and others in 2013's record-breaking frame.
"If you ask executives if they'd rather have a more profitable summer or a summer that was perceived as being a monumental revenue generator, I think studio execs would go for the profitability," Dergarabedian said. "Of course, that really doesn't help the theater owners."
An uptick in August, driven almost entirely by "Guardians" and the "Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles" reboot, cut the comparative bloodletting by about five points from the 20 percent level it was at in July. Long considered a box-office dead zone, August this year may turn out to be the highest-ranking eighth month ever, running almost 10 percent ahead of
So, while the summer of 2014 started at a disadvantage from which it never recovered -- the
"Knowing that there's major help on the way prevents people from making pronouncements about the movie theater experience being a thing of the past," said Dergarabedian, who views the whole business as cyclical and product driven. "It's definitely going to come back."
"It was a fine season," O'Riordan said, assessing the past four months as a whole. "There wasn't a lot of risk-taking, it wasn't a super-exciting summer -- I think what happened was kind of a convergence of things. I don't think it was any one, systemic issue."
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