‘Guardians’ Steals Box-Office Crown in Worst U.S. Summer

“Guardians of the Galaxy,” the hit movie about a group of misfit superheroes from Walt Disney Co.’s Marvel studio, stayed atop U.S. and Canadian theaters as Hollywood finished the worst summer for ticket sales since 2006.

“Guardians” collected $22.2 million over the four-day U.S. Labor Day weekend, outdrawing two new releases, researcher Rentrak Corp. said today in a statement. “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles” remained in second place, generating $15.7 million.

“Summer 2014 was in the unenviable position of following what was the biggest revenue-generating summer of all time in 2013,” Paul Dergarabedian, senior analyst at Rentrak, said in a phone interview yesterday. “This made comparisons very tough.”

“Guardians,” released Aug. 1, is the biggest film in the U.S. this year and puts a positive cap on a season in which many movie fans stayed away from the multiplex. Sales have declined about 15 percent from a year earlier, according to Rentrak, which estimates the summer total through today will be $4.06 billion, the least since $3.75 billion in 2006.

Two new films opened in wide release. “As Above/So Below,” from Comcast Corp.’s Universal Pictures, opened with sales of $10.3 million to rank fifth. The audience for the R-rated horror movie, in which explorers discover secrets in Paris’s catacombs according to IMDB.com, was about 52 percent female, and about 57 percent of the group was younger than age 25, according to a Rentrak/Screen Engine’s PostTrak survey.

Critical Reviews

The picture was reviewed unfavorably by critics, heading into the weekend with a 23 percent positive rating on Rottentomatoes.com, which distills reviews into a single number. The rating today was listed as 33 percent. BoxOffice.com had projected $11.5 million in sales over the four days.

“There are some interestingly contrived moments of claustrophobia and surreal lunacy, but this cliched and slightly hand-me-down script neither scares nor amuses very satisfyingly,” Peter Bradshaw wrote in the Guardian.

“The November Man,” from Relativity Media LLC, produced $10.2 million for sixth place. The spy thriller, which stars actor Pierce Brosnan, attracted an audience in which 83 percent of the viewers were older than age 25, a survey showed.

Brosnan stars as an ex-CIA operative who is brought back into action and pitted against a former pupil in a battle involving the Russian president-elect.

The film, which opened on Aug. 27, was forecast to generate $8.8 million for Relativity Media over four days. The movie registered a 36 percent positive rating with Rottentomatoes.com.

Summer Scheduling

Scheduling played a role in the shrinking summer sales at theaters. Some studios shifted film releases to avoid conflict with the World Cup from mid-June to mid-July.

Others released clunkers like “Edge of Tomorrow,” from Warner Bros. The Tom Cruise film cost $178 million to make, according to Box Office Mojo, and brought in $100 million in domestic sales.

Delays also played a role. Disney’s Pixar division pushed back the release of “The Good Dinosaur” until November 2015 because the film wasn’t ready, while Comcast Corp.’s Universal Pictures postponed “Fast & Furious 7” until next year with the death of actor Paul Walker in an automobile accident.

Worldwide, “Transformers: Age of Extinction” is still the top movie for the summer and for the year, with $1.07 billion in global revenue, according to Box Office Mojo. “Guardians” has about $548 million in worldwide sales and is unlikely to catch up.

International Sales

While the international box office makes up a growing portion of film revenue, the U.S. remains the largest market. The sales that studios receive for movies in the home-entertainment market -- cable TV showings, DVDs and movie downloads, for example -- closely follow the domestic box office, and are in some cases tied directly to ticket sales.

With “Guardians,” Marvel brought a scrappy, less-known group of comic-book heroes to cinemas, with an eye toward developing a new film series. The studio spent $170 million making the movie, according to Box Office Mojo. A sequel is planned for 2017, Disney said.

Chris Pratt, known for NBC’s “Parks & Recreation” sitcom, stars as Peter Quill, an American pilot who becomes the target of a unrelenting bounty hunt in space. He’s pursued after stealing a mysterious orb coveted by the super-villain Ronan, played by Lee Pace.

Pratt is joined by co-stars Zoe Saldana, Dave Bautista, and characters voiced by Bradley Cooper and Vin Diesel.

Cold Summer

The summer season runs from the start of May through the today’s U.S. Labor Day holiday. Producing hits during this period is critical for studios, which generate about 40 percent of their annual box-office revenue when children are on school break.

Weekend sales for the top 10 films fell 5.2 percent to $80.5 million from a year earlier, Rentrak said. For the year to date, domestic ticket sales are down 5.1 percent to $7.2 billion.

The following table has U.S. movie box-office figures provided by studios to Rentrak. The amounts are based on gross ticket sales for Aug. 29-31 and estimates for today.

                     Rev.   *Pct.             Avg./   Total
Movie               (mln)    Chg. Theaters  Theater   (mln)  Wks
 1 Guardians        $22.2     -5    3,462   $6,406   $280.5    5
 2 Ninja Turtles     15.7    -30    3,543    4,431    166.4    4
 3 If I Stay         11.6    -41    3,003    3,863     32.2    2
 4 Let’s Be Cops     10.6    -24    3,010    3,505     59.7    3
 5 As Above          10.3     --    2,640    3,910     10.3    1
 6 November Man      10.2     --    2,776    3,674     11.9    1
 7 Game Stands Tall   8.0    -33    2,673    2,993     18.7    2
 8 Giver, The         6.9    -18    2,805    2,455     33.2    3
 9 Hundred-Foot       6.3    -14    1,918    3,299     41.1    4
10 Expendables 3      4.6    -46    2,564    1,775     34.2    3

*Weekly percentage change based on Friday to Sunday totals.

Top 10 Films Grosses

This Week Year Ago Pct. (mln) (mln) Chg. =================================== $80.5 $84.9 -5.2

Year-to-date Revenue

2014 2013 YTD YTD Pct. (mln) (mln) Chg. =================================== $7,201 $7,591 -5.1 Source: Rentrak Corp.

((An earlier version of this story corrected the final paragraph to say “for today."))

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