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No, Christmas Isn't the New Summer Movie Season

Stocks in this article: SNE LGF DIS

PORTLAND, Ore. ( TheStreet) -- Hey, so Hunger Games: Catching Fire made about $300 million in two weeks. The holidays are the new summer for movies, amirite?

No. Nowhere close.

While the folks at Lions Gate (LGF) are likely very happy with that take -- as Disney (DIS) is with the nearly $400 million that Thor: The Dark World and Frozen have made so far -- the concept of the holiday blockbuster is nearly three decades old and hasn't shifted the balance in the slightest. It all comes down to vacation days and opportunity: Summer has way more of both.

For some perspective, let's jump back to 1984 and a couple of the movie blockbuster's masters: Don Simpson and Jerry Bruckheimer. Before the Bad Boys films, before Crimson Tide and before Top Gun, the pair of producers used a combination of big-budget production and bombastic backing music to make a star out of Jennifer Beals and to make a piece of Hollywood iconography out of 1983's Flashdance. A year later, with comedian Eddie Murphy taking on a role abandoned by both Mickey Rourke and Sylvester Stallone, Simpson and Bruckheimer transformed Beverly Hills Cop from a niche action film (see Stallone's Cobra) to an '80s pop culture cornerstone that made $235 million during the holiday season alone.

That's a mark R-rated films wouldn't reach again until The Matrix: Reloaded in 2003. Adjusted for inflation, that's a $551 million smash and the third-highest-grossing R-rated film of all time behind The Exorcist and The Godfather.

Yet that movie was roughly 31% of a $764 million holiday movie season. By comparison, the 1984 summer season nearly doubled that take to $1.49 billion though its biggest film, Ghostbusters only brought in $229 million (or 15.4%) of the overall summer box office. There were only about 60 days in the holiday movie season compared to 122 for summer and only 35 films released compared to 51 in the summer of '84.

In some areas, that divide has only widened as years have passed. Sony's (SNE) James Bond installment Skyfall made more than $304 million last holiday season and led a slate of 94 holiday movies to a $2.6 billion take and a 23% increase over the 2011 holiday season. Still, that lagged well behind Disney's $624 million summer behemoth The Avengers and last summer's $4.3 billion season -- when a season-record 222 films hit U.S. screens.

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