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Hollywood posts second-strongest summer ever at domestic box office

It's official: 2015 is now the second-strongest summer ever at the domestic box office.

Summer movies, which kicked off May 1 and wrapped up on Labor Day, ended up grossing $4.48 billion in the United States and Canada this year. That haul is up 10.3% from the lackluster $4.06 billion brought in last summer, according to figures released by research firm Rentrak on Tuesday. 

The record, which is second only to 2013's $4.75-billion summer, comes on the heels of a robust year-to-date for Universal Pictures and Disney. The studios' films accounted for seven of the top 10 box office hits this summer, with Universal leading the way with four titles and Disney with three.

The summer season is always a vital and lucrative time for the box office, especially in North America, where it represents 18 to 19 weeks (roughly 40%) of the whole year. Though analysts initially thought this could become the No. 1 summer to date, a few flops -- including 20th Century Fox's "Fantastic Four" and Sony Pictures' "Pixels" -- brought the overall gross down.

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"This was a summer that on paper looked like it was easily going to be a record-breaker," Paul Dergarabedian, a senior media analyst for Rentrak, told the Los Angeles Times on Sunday. "But, as with all summers, all it takes is one or two movies not to deliver and you don't get a record."

However, Dergarabedian noted the summer had "more hits than misses."

Among the tentpoles: Universal Pictures' "Jurassic World," which has made $657.3 million in the United States and Canada since its June release, Disney-owned Marvel's "Avengers: Age of Ultron," which has made $458.3 million domestically since its May release, and Disney Pixar's "Inside Out," which has made $349.5 million since its June release.

Universal's "Minions" ($329.7 million) and "Pitch Perfect 2" ($183.7 million) finished in fourth and fifth, respectively.

Also in the top 10, Paramount Pictures' "Mission: Impossible -- Rogue Nation" (which has amassed $182.6 million since its July 31 release), Disney-owned Marvel's "Ant-Man" ($174 million), Warner Bros.' "San Andreas" ($154.6 million) and "Mad Max: Fury Road" ($153.1 million). Universal's "Straight Outta Compton" rounded out the top 10 after pulling in $149.78 million domestically after just four weekends at the box office.

Universal was the No. 1 distributor of the summer, with its 11 titles pulling in about 34% of the 2015 market share from May 1 through Sept. 7, according to data provided by Rentrak. The studio collected $1.5 billion domestically during the summer season.

Disney's eight titles helped boost the studio to second place with $1.09 billion (24.35% of the 2015 market share) during that same period, marking the studio's first billion-dollar summer.

Warner Bros., Hollywood's biggest film studio and frequent box office leader, finished in third place this summer after releasing 18 films. Though it scored with two films in the top 10, they were tempered by misses such as "Entourage" and spy drama "The Man From U.N.C.L.E."

The season had a slow start, with a steady stream of double-digit weekly declines in ticket sales after Memorial Day, the unofficial kickoff for what has become the movie industry's most lucrative period.

The Fourth of July holiday weekend also proved to be a bust, with Warner Bros.' "Magic Mike XXL" and Paramount's "Terminator Genisys" falling short of tracking expectations. The films were expected to gross $50 million to $60 million through the weekend; instead “Terminator Genisys” had an estimated five-day total of $44.2 million, and “Magic Mike XXL” had a total of $27.1 million.

And then, were it not for Universal's N.W.A music biopic "Straight Outta Compton," August would have been more notably sluggish.

Still, with such an overall strong season, Dergarabedian projects the domestic box office could hit $11 billion for first time ever by the end of the year. Highly anticipated films such as the James Bond movie "Spectre," "Hunger Games: Mockingjay -- Part 2" and "Star Wars: The Force Awakens" are expected to collect hundreds of millions of dollars.

"Hollywood has nothing to complain about," Dergarabedian said. "We're ending the summer with a whimper rather than a bang, but it's still going to lead us into one of the best fall and holiday seasons ever."

For more news on the entertainment industry, follow me @saba_h on Twitter.


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