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Summer box office sees its worst Memorial Day weekend in 17 years

SexCity2a Blame the playoffs, blame the economy or just blame the movies, but this was a Memorial Day weekend that Hollywood would like to forget.

With new releases "Prince of Persia" and "Sex and the City 2" failing to generate big box office, total movie ticket sales for the four-day holiday weekend were an estimated $186 million, the lowest total since 2001.

(For details on the performances of those two movies and "Shrek Forever After" this weekend, see our initial post.)

Accounting for ticket price inflation, the numbers are much worse. The actual number of tickets sold -- about 23.4 million -- was the lowest since 1993, according to data compiled by Hollywood.com.

Movie studio distribution executives pointed to several factors that may have depressed this weekend's box office: the NBA and NHL playoffs that this year feature teams from major cities -- Los Angeles, Boston, Chicago and Philadelphia -- and the Indianapolis 500 race. Another possible reason could be the improving economy, as more people have been going on vacation this year compared with last year.

There's no precise way to measure just how much of a factor was played by simple disinterest in the available films. Moviegoers who saw "Prince of Persia" and "Sex and the City 2" liked them better than did most critics, giving the films average grades of B+ and B, respectively, according to market research firm CinemaScore. But there's no denying that the level of excitement was far lower for the two films than for "Night at the Museum 2" and "Terminator Salvation" last year or "Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull" in 2008.

Prince1So far, the high-stakes summer movie season, which starts on the first weekend of May, hasn't been a good one for the entertainment industry. "Shrek Forever After" had a soft start, though it held relatively well on its second weekend, and "Robin Hood" flopped almost as badly as "Prince of Persia." Only "Iron Man 2" has achieved the blockbuster status that studios strive for with big-budget summer releases.

And despite a substantial increase in ticket prices, domestic box-office revenue for the first four weekends of May through Memorial Day is essentially flat with 2009, according to Hollywood.com. Movie attendance in that period is down a substantial 6.3% this year.

Still, studio executives are hopeful that pictures like "Shrek" and "Sex and the City 2" will hold on much better after their openings than did past summer movies. They also have big commercial hopes for several upcoming titles including "Toy Story 3," "The Twilight Saga: Eclipse" and the Leonardo DiCaprio thriller "Inception."

"I'm not willing to say that the summer is going to be a problem just because we didn't jump out with the same numbers that we did last year," said Dan Fellman, president of domestic distribution for Warner Bros.

Here are the top 10 movies in the U.S. and Canada, based on their four-day grosses. Percentage drops are based on three-day grosses. International grosses are through Sunday only.

1. "Shrek Forever After" (DreamWorks Animation/Paramount): $55.7 million on its second weekend, down 39%. $18.5 million overseas in 15 foreign markets. Domestic total: $145.5 million. International total: $53.5 million.

2. "Prince of Persia" (Disney): Opened to $37.8 million. $59 million overseas in 47 foreign markets. International total: $87.5 million.

3. "Sex and the City 2" (Warner Bros./New Line/Village Roadshow): $37.1 million for the four-day weekend, plus $14.3 million on its opening Thursday. $27.6 million overseas in 15 foreign markets. Domestic total: $51.4 million. International total: $27.6 million.

4. "Iron Man 2" (Marvel/Paramount): $20.6 million on its fourth weekend, down 38%. $6.8 million overseas in 61 foreign markets. Domestic total: $279.2 million. International total: $281.5 million.

5. "Robin Hood" (Universal/Relativity): $13.6 million on its third weekend, down 44%. $17.6 million in 56 foreign markets. Domestic total: $86.3 million. International total: $154.6 million.

6. "Letters to Juliet" (Summit): $7.3 million on its third weekend, down 34%. Domestic total: $37.9 million.

7. "Just Wright" (Fox Searchlight): $2.7 million on its third weekend, down 50%. Domestic total: $18.7 million.

8. "Date Night" (Fox/Dune): $2.3 million on its eighth weekend, down 38%. $1 million overseas in 32 foreign markets. Domestic total: $93.9 million. International total: $52.8 million.

9. "MacGruber" (Rogue/Universal): $1.9 million on its second weekend, down 62%. Domestic total: $7.6 million.

10. "How to Train Your Dragon" (DreamWorks Animation/Paramount): $1.5 million on its 10th weekend, down 44%. $4.7 million overseas in 62 foreign markets. Domestic total: $213.1 million. International total: $243 million.

-- Ben Fritz


First look: 'Shrek' wins weekend as 'Sex' disappoints and 'Persia' flops

Top photo: Kristin Davis, Sarah Jessica Parker, Kim Cattrall and Cynthia Nixon in "Sex and the City 2." Credit: Craig Blankenhorn / New Line Cinema. Bottom photo: Jake Gyllenhaal and Gemma Arterton in "Prince of Persia." Credit: Andrew Cooper / Walt Disney Studios

Comments () | Archives (36)

Really? This is a mystery? First, there were no big 'movies' released this weekend. What was released were mediocre commercial products designed to generate as much money as possible in as short as period of time as possible. Second, movie ticket prices are simply ridiculous. Third, for those who haven't noticed, WE'RE BROKE. We, down here on the street, I mean, no we up there in the studio office who believe the Great Recession has magically ended.

Mystery solved.

Exactly! When businesses, including the studios, stop laying off thousands of people across the country maybe the general public will have extra money to actually spend on non-essentials.

They used to say the entertainment industry was recession-proof but not in today's times when there are ways that people can easily get their entertainment for free. Redbox is a dollar. Can't beat that!

Why spend what you don't have, especially when you can get it almost for free!

"Movie studio distribution executives" are in denial. The reason. THE PRODUCT SUCKED (and it is PRODUCT.) Re SATC 2 -you can put designer lipstick and a YSL label on a pig but it's still a pig.

Prince of Persia was good for a non-thinking, action movies. Nothing great, but good. And the only movie I'm looking forward to seeing is Splice - something more original and in the sci-fi genre.

A meal or a movie?

Thanks but no thanks, I will take the meal and skip the movie.

Tickets are too expensive now, movies are no longer a cheap escape from drudgery of life, which is too bad because I really enjoy seeing movies on the silver screen in theaters

Movie execs may not feel the recession but for ordinary people it's hard times

They raised prices of movie tickets when they should have lowered them.

I think the biggest reason for the slump is how lousy the current crop of movies is. A good movie is well worth $10, but who wants to waste their time and money when there's much better entertainment on t.v.?

Of course movie attendance is down! Month after month of lousy movies will do that. Moviegoing is a habit - we get used to checking to see what's playing at what time. If Hollywood continues to put out bad product, people will continue to get used to NOT checking to see what is playing at what time.

There's been little to look forward to this "summer" season so far. Iron Man 2 was bleh - okay, but not nearly as good as the original; Robin Hood looked just like the first 20 minutes of Gladiator - why would I go see that again? Sex and the City 2 looked preposterous in previews and the length and the reviews make it sound even worse - something to appeal to hard core fans only. And I actually know some folks who saw Prince of Persia - they said it was mindless fun, but much better than they expected. They all agreed, however, that the previews for it made it look much worse than it turned out to be, so nice job on the marketing there.

As has been noted by others, movie prices have skyrocketed as have concession prices. After tickets, a soda and popcorn, a single person is out $25, never mind a couple or a family. So we should all be paying a lot more money to see a bunch of lousy movies? Where's the value in that?

Movie execs need to stop making excuses about sporting events that have taken place over this holiday weekend for years and start making better decisions and better movies. Or they'll be making the same excuses next year.

The weekend was a well earned failure. Nothing but junk new releases. The Expendables, The A Team, Day and Knight, or Killers might have made this a memorable film weekend, but instead we got nothing. Thanks, for nothing, Hollywood.

- josephlcooke.blogspot

Perhaps if movies were presented in full color rather with the blue tint effect, more people would attend.

Or perhaps they have killed the goose once again. You know what I mean...

1. movie ticket prices are way too expensive. if you want to charge as much it is to see a movie as going to a baseball game, then you're gonna get people coming about as often which for me is like once a year. before when movies were under 10 dollars, they were still cheap enough to go regularly like 5 times a year. you guys do the math. and this is everyone i know complaining and eventually not going.
2. no must see movies. terminator salvation had a crazy amount of hype around it. the shrek series has suffered in quality since the first so consumers wizened up finally. prince of persia is based of a videogame that wasnt a hit since the 80s. believe me, i was an avid videogamer in the 90s and prince of persia's incarnations in the 90s were all duds and really only a small niche group even remember the 80s p.o.p.

i think it's moreso the first reason than the second. before when ticket prices were under 10, people wouldnt mind paying the amount even if the movie, as it often did, sucked. now with the ridiculous ticket prices, youve got consumers thinking more about throwing away their hard earned money and thinking of the movies as some sort of event thing (which by comparing it to going to a broadway play or sporting event you are doing) that they should only go to once in a blue moon. how out of touch are they to think that most americans even go to plays/sporting events even once a month. congratulations you guys. you killed the golden goose that was 3d. and you broke the moviegoing public from the habit of going every week. you guys suck.

If I take my wife and two kids to the movies, it's about forty to fifty bucks for just the tickets. Add the ridiculous cost of popcorn, drinks, dinner and parking, I'm spending over a hundred bucks on an evening out. Plus, the movies that Hollywood is churning out these days are just horrible, devoid of interesting characters, story or moral point of view.

On the other hand, we can order a movie on On Demand for 5 to 6 bucks, a DVD rental from Redbox for $1 or a Netflix movie for less than a buck with our $10 per month fee and three films per week. We're finding that staying home with the kids is an even more fun experience than going out and we're saving hundreds of dollars.

The movie industry is doomed to failure.

one more reason: all these 80s remakes are going to bomb. i remember them vividly and fondly and have no desire to have them updated and soiled. even the karate kid remake, which looks good, i have no desire seeing. i want original movies so that i can feel like im moving forward with my life and experiencing new things, not just rehashing my childhood poorly. The Losers, the A-Team, nightmare on elm street, prince of persia, karate kid -- i will not see any of these. at least the 70s remakes i was interested in seeing because i wasn't born then. hollywood shouldve waited a few years at least and mix in em instead of going full throttle with 80s remakes.

the only movies i will see this summer are originals: knight and day and inception.

Just in case the point hasn't been made - lousy, lousy, LOUSY movies to choose from. I'd rather stay home and catch up on MAD MEN.

Who wants to pay so much money for a ticket when the experience is usually ruined by someone yakking on their cell phone. Or chatting up the person next to them, or someone who's too lazy to get a babysitter and brings their crying brat into an R rated movie. I'd rather wait for it to come out on DVD and rent it from Netflix.

sum up....movies too expensive, special effects (3D included) does not a movie make, home theater is better than most movie houses, rentstreambuy movies is cheaper than going to them.

I will only go to a few movies in theaters. And if they're not spectacles, I will never go see them in theaters.

Theaters need to start charging for movies by scale. If a movie sucks, it's two bucks.. and so on and so forth, capping top ticket price at $8. Whatever happened to cheap matinees?

The movies are all flops this weekend because they picked the wrong actress to play the part, i.e. Cate Blanchett is too old, ugly hair, ugly face in Robin Hood and Gemma Arterton stupid ugly face, ugly hair, accent in Prince of Persia. Come on, pick someone sexy, beautiful, like a young Catherine Zeta Jones look-a-like next time to play the love interest of future movies!

hollywood and theater chains better listen up. people are angry for a reason.

Bad movies=bad sales

This summer is pretty terrible for movies.

Now as an example. In 2007 we had: Transformers, Pirates 3, Harry Potter 5, The Simpsons movie, Spiderman 3, Oceans 13—and those are just the big hitters.

Last summer we had, Transformers 2, Terminator Salvation, Wolverine, Star Trek, and Harry Potter 6

In 2011 we got X-men first class, Rise of the Apes, Thor, Pirates 4, Harry Potter 7, Green Lantern, and Captain America

Again those are only the big-budget action summer flicks. But big budget action summer flicks are what its about after all.

This year we have Iron Man 2, Predators, the A-team (if you're in to movies where they fire machine guns off of tanks parachuting through the air) and Inception. And Inception seems like forced filler (no offense Nolan, I would just have preferred Batman 3 instead)—ie no one would've cared about Inception if Nolan hadn't got a mass-market reputation through The Dark Knight

There just wasn't any compelling movies to go see. Prince of Persia didn't seem well advertized. Now that I realize it's out I'll go see it.

Sex and the City seems more date night than, hanging out with family and friends. See it more as a weekday movie than holiday one.

Guess I should mention, movies lack plot anymore. How about action WITH a great story, something that draws you in, is compelling, and takes you away from every day life. There is maybe 3 movies a year that actually fit that, and the P word (Plot) is generally lacking in all but 1 or 2.

Although this holiday weekend the boxoffice was extremely low - so far this year - studios are on pace to make MORE money than last year. WB and Disney have already made $1 billion at the box office, and the summer hasn't even started yet. One bad weekend doesn't make it a bad year. Wake up people - studios are making more money than ever especially cause of 3D and higher tix prices. Hollywood is laughing to all those people complaining because they don't make movies for adults anymore - they make movies for teens. WB, Fox, Disney, and Paramount is on pace to make more money this year than last year. They're already ahead of last years numbers at this time in the year.

Yep, worst selection of movies in recent memory. I am an huge movie theater enthusiast; for Christmas I got a $50 gift card to my local multiplex. Now five months into the year, I still haven't used it completely. I think another major problem is hollywood studios are taken eons between movies for the actually good summer blockbuster franchises moviegoers really care about. I mean, five years for the final Batman film to come out? Geez, and the execs at Sony wondered why Tobey MacGuire outgrew Spider-man so fast. Let's see... Star Trek was a huge hit; I know, let's wait until 2013 to release the sequel, that'll make the starving Trek fans happy! Not to mention they go and cancel hotly anticipated movies after they already have huge hype (i.e. Spider Man 4). For the love of God, Hollywood, get these movies to us while we still care about them. Forget all the crappy movies you have scheduled in between - we won't waste our money on them anyways. Other than "Last Airbender," "Inception," and "Harry Potter 7 Part I" there isn't really anything else I'm even looking forward to the rest of this calendar year. Sigh...

Oh, and here's one other interesting thought worth mentioning since we're talking about how bad the movies are lately. So far we're almost half-way through this year and I can't recall even one movie that's been out yet that is a real legitimate Oscar candidate. Now that the Academy has increased the nominees in the best picture category to 10, I can only imagine what atrocious garbage will be filling that roster next February. Ugh!

We went to the movies this weekend. The bill for two adults and three kids under 6 was $74. Of course, we all shared one small popcorn and broke up one small soda into three tiny water cups, wow, we really splurged. Ridiculous.

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