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Despite the bombs, Hollywood posts a record summer

  • This undated file publicity photo from Disney/Bruckheimer Films, shows actors, Johnny Depp, left, as Tonto, a spirit warrior on a personal quest, who joins forces in a fight for justice with Armie Hammer, as John Reid, a lawman who has become a masked avenger in "The Lone Ranger." (AP Photo/Disney/Bruckheimer Films, File)

NEW YORK — In the end, Hollywood made it through a precarious minefield of summer box-office bombs with a heftier wallet. The summer concluded with a record $4.7 billion in box-office revenue despite much maligned flops like "The Lone Ranger," ''After Earth" and "White House Down."

The summer movie season closed out on Labor Day weekend as the boy band concert film "One Direction: This Is Us" took in an estimated $18 million from Friday to Monday for Sony Pictures, according to studio estimates Monday. That wasn't enough to unseat the Weinstein Co. historical drama "Lee Daniels' The Butler," which stayed on top for the third week with $20 million.

It was a positive note on which to end a tumultuous but profitable summer for Hollywood. More than ever before, the industry packed the summer months with big-budget blockbusters that ranged from the hugely successful "Iron Man 3" to the disastrous "The Lone Ranger." Though the movie business has always been one of hits and misses, this summer brought particular attention to some big whiffs.

Yet the box office saw a 10.2 percent increase in revenue over last summer (not accounting for inflation), with attendance rising 6.6 percent. A portion of the revenue bump could be attributed to rising ticket prices which, on average, went up 27 cents from last year.

But the plethora of major releases — a more than 50 percent increase from last year in films costing $75 million or more to make — meant moviegoers had a parade of highly-marketed, big-budget options through the early, most sought-after weeks of the summer. That meant faster blockbuster turnover that may have been better for the industry as a whole, but often came at the expense of individual films.

"It was one of the most interesting summers I've ever seen," said Paul Dergarabedian, analyst for box-office tracker Hollywood.com. "It was this mix of great news and bad news at the same time."

So what to make a summer (which is considered to run from the first weekend in May to Labor Day) that often seemed like a weekly punch line but ended up doing robust business overall? The lessons were hard to deduce.

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