NEW YORK (TheStreet) -- Walt Disney Company's (DIS - Get Report) latest Marvel franchise Guardians of the Galaxy has blasted to the top of the box office to become the highest-grossing flick of the summer.
The surprise box office hit has generated $251.8 million in North America over its four-week run, toppling Transformers: Age of Extinction (produced by Paramount Pictures, a Viacom-run (VIAB - Get Report) studio) which earned $243.8 million domestically. Fellow Disney film Maleficent is firmly in third place with a $237.58 million domestic haul.
This year's season has been weak for what is commonly the period when studios release their tent-pole films, big-budget bets which generally far exceed their production budget in gross box office. Over the 2014 season, releases generated total domestic gross of $3.63 billion, 25.2% lower than a year earlier. No film this season was able to exceed the $300 million mark domestically, unlike in previous years, when at least one film surpassed the $300 million threshold.
The success of Guardians over August has marked a season ending with a bang with audiences responding to the superhero space action flick. The film regained the number one spot in the penultimate weekend of the summer, reclaiming the title from Paramount Pictures' Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles which led the box office for the past fortnight.
Over the weekend, Guardians beat three new entrants: If I Stay, a film based on a young-adult novel similar in theme to previous summer hit The Fault In Our Stars, came in third place over the weekend (behind TMNT) with $16.4 million. Sequel Sin City: A Dame to Kill bombed with only $6.4 million in ticket sales, while Sony TriStar's When the Game Stands Tall generated $9 million.
By week's end, Guardians is expected to pass the April release of Captain America: The Winter Soldier (also a Disney Marvel film), which earned nearly $260 million, to become the largest money-maker of the year.
Paramount's Transformers remains number one globally, generating a worldwide gross of $1.05 billion to Guardians' $489 million. Guardians has yet to open in China, Germany or Japan.
--Written by Keris Alison Lahiff in New York.