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This summer’s box office was the lowest in 19 years

Box Office

Now that we’ve officially moved into September, it seems a perfect time to look back at the summer we’ve all just survived. While the oppressive heat and worryingly numerous armed rampages will go down in history as the most notable events of the season, Hollywood suits will likely remember the summer for its horrendously low box office take.

Appropriately, The Hollywood Reporter reports:

According to preliminary estimates, 533.5 million tickets were sold this summer, down 4 percent from last year and the worst turnout since 1993. The lowest attendance before now came in summer 2010, when there were 534.4 tickets sold.

Total summer revenues also slipped. Initial estimates show the domestic box office generating $4.278 in billion in sales, down roughly 3 percent from last summer’s record $4.4 billion.

While final numbers have yet to be released (THR claims they’ll appear later this week), the above is more than enough to worry the studios, or at least make the executives at each firm reconsider how they market and promote films in our globally connected, modern world. Ice Age: Continental Drift is offered up as an example by THR, which claims that the film, which has only pulled in a relatively modest $156.1 million here in America, has been able to generate $672 million in foreign markets. While these other countries have been important to Hollywood’s bottom line for years, it seems increasingly likely that as other nations catch up to America’s ravenous pop culture appetite, that they will become the key focus for the PR teams of Hollywood’s studios. Given the amount of cash generated globally by the most recent Ice Age movie, would it be all that surprising to see Fox’s marketing machine shift its focus from American audiences to, say, those in China? Or Russia? Or any of the other nations that are more populous and equally in love with CGI cartoons as the USA?

“But wait, what about those massive blockbusters comic book movies that hit theaters this summer?” you wonder. “Didn’t The Avengers and The Dark Knight Rises each pull in over a billion dollars?” Yes, they did. The Avengers managed to earn a little less than $1.5 billion globally, and The Dark Knight Rises has drawn a bit over a billion. That’s great news for Disney and Warner Bros. respectively, but only serves to illustrate how depressingly unprofitable this summer has been for Tinsel Town. If we were to remove the roughly $2.5 billion these two films collectively generated, the summer’s box office returns would be a mere $1.778 billion, a massive 60 percent decline from 2011’s summer box office revenues. It wouldn’t be much of a stretch to say that these two comic book movies propped up the industry this summer, so if we had to bet we’d likely assume that we’re going to be knee deep in superhero movies for the foreseeable future.

The other major effect this will likely have on Hollywood studios concerns the Motion Picture Association of America’s ongoing quest to eradicate movie piracy. Expect the studios to point to these figures as evidence that Internet piracy is killing Hollywood. Sure, the studios will continue to offer multi-million dollar bonuses to their executives, but it’s your fault, common Internet user, that Harvey Weinstein won’t be able to afford that island in Barbados he’s had his eye on. Are you happy now? Harvey’s going to have to settle for a stupid Hawaiian island, like some kind of destitute Oracle executive. We hope you can somehow live with the guilt.