U.S. July 4 Weekend Box Office Falls to Lowest Since ’99

U.S. box-office sales fell to their lowest in 15 years for a July 4 weekend, stymied by a weak slate of three new releases and a Friday holiday observance that kept fans from the multiplex.

Sales over the July 4-6 weekend totaled $132.2 million, Rentrak Corp. said today in an e-mailed statement, the lowest three-day tally for the U.S. Independence Day holiday since

1999. The returning film “Transformers: Age of Extinction,” Paramount Pictures’ summer blockbuster, held the top spot for a second weekend with revenue of $37.1 million.

The results compound an already weak summer at the box office. Revenue since May 2 is down 17 percent from a year earlier, according to researcher Box Office Mojo. Ticket sales often slump when July 4 falls on either a Friday or Saturday, the two busiest days of the week for cinemas, since film fans are drawn to barbecues and fireworks shows.

“Luckily help is on the way,” said Paul Dergarabedian, senior analyst at Rentrak. “It will only take one or two big unexpected hits to knock down this summer deficit.”

The film industry headed into the summer season with sales up 9.5 percent from a year earlier, according to Rentrak data as of April 27. In part, the gain reflected a strategy by studios of releasing typical summer films earlier in the year to thin out the crowded schedule.

Spending has slumped on an almost weekly basis since then, with 2014 domestic ticket revenue down 3.8 percent to $5.44 billion through July 6, Rentrak said.

Top Film

“Transformers: Age of Extinction,” forecast to be the biggest film of the summer, is providing a boost to Viacom Inc.’s film division, which ranked last among the six major studios in U.S. sales, at $460.4 million as of July 3, and has the fewest releases so far this year, according to researcher Box Office Mojo.

It’s one of Paramount’s important pictures of the year, alongside “Hercules,” which is scheduled to open later this month, and “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles,” opening in August.

The first film in a new trilogy, “Transformers” has been a bigger hit in China than the U.S., a rare feat for Hollywood, generating $134.5 million there in its first five days, compared with a domestic tally of $121 million.

“What’s happening with this movie is pretty fascinating,” Phil Contrino, editor at BoxOffice.com, said in a telephone interview. “This is a truly global property. It’s off to a great start around the world.”

Weekend Releases

“Tammy,” the biggest new release of the weekend, opened with sales of $21.6 million to place second over the three days for Time Warner Inc.’s Warner Bros. An R-rated comedy featuring Melissa McCarthy, it was projected to collect $22.5 million. The film has garnered $33.3 million in the five days since its release on July 2, according to Rentrak.

McCarthy, star of the 2013 comedy “Identity Thief,” plays Tammy, who returns home after being fired from a fast-food restaurant to find her husband having an affair with the neighbor. She takes flight and embarks on a road trip with her alcoholic and diabetic grandmother, played by Susan Sarandon.

In Sony Corp.’s horror feature “Deliver Us From Evil,” Eric Bana stars as New York police officer Ralph Sarchie, investigating a series of crimes. He joins forces with a priest to fight demonic possessions that are terrorizing their city.

The film opened in fourth place with weekend sales of $9.7 million after garnering a 34 percent positive rating from critics at Rottentomatoes.com. It was projected take in $12.5 million over three days, according to BoxOffice.com. It has generated $15.3 million since it opened on July 2.

E.T. Echo

The last new wide release, the family feature “Earth to Echo” from Relativity Media LLC, placed sixth with $8.4 million. In echoes of “E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial,” the 1982 Steven Spielberg movie, the new film follows a group of kids who embark on an adventure with an alien who needs their help.

The picture got a 51 percent positive rating from critics on Rottentomatoes.com and has generated $13.6 million since opening on July 2.

The following table has U.S. movie box-office figures provided by studios to Rentrak. The amounts are based on gross ticket sales for July 4-6.

                     Rev.    Pct.             Avg./    Total
Movie               (mln)    Chg. Theaters  Theater    (mln) Wks
 1 Transformers     $37.1    -63    4,233   $8,753   $175.4    2
 2 Tammy             21.6     --    3,465    6,227     33.3    1
 3 22 Jump Street     9.8    -38    3,324    2,949    159.3    4
 4 Deliver Us         9.7     --    3,049    3,195     15.3    1
 5 Train Your Dragon  9.0    -32    3,297    2,718    140.2    4
 6 Earth To Echo      8.4     --    3,230    2,590     13.6    1
 7 Maleficent         6.2    -26    2,389    2,578    213.9    6
 8 Jersey Boys        5.2    -33    2,630    1,960     36.7    3
 9 Think Like A Man   4.9    -53    1,729    2,819     57.2    3
10 Edge Of Tomorrow   3.7    -32    1,538    2,380     90.9    5

Top 10 Films Grosses

This Week Year Ago Pct. (mln) (mln) Chg. =================================== $115.3 $219.3 -47

Year-to-date Revenue

2014 2013 YTD YTD Pct. (mln) (mln) Chg. =================================== $5,439 $5,651 -3.8 Source: Rentrak Corp.

(An earlier version of this story was corrected to reflect amended data from Rentrak.)

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