Let's All Mourn the Summer Movie Blockbuster

PORTLAND, Ore. (TheStreet) – Summer movies haven't been this mind-numbingly mediocre in more than a decade, and it's taking a toll on the movie industry.

Since 2004, the biggest film of the summer typically has brought in $400 million or more in the U.S., peaking -- hitting a lull with Sony's Spider-Man 3 ($336.5 million) in 2007 and peaking with Disney's The Avengers ($623 million) in 2012. That bar isn't even close to being reached this summer. This season's third-biggest film, Fox's X-Men: Days Of Future Past was the first film to break $200 million and sat just above it at $230 million going into last weekend. Only four films -- Sony's The Amazing Spider-Man 2, Paramount's Transformers: Age Of Extinction and Disney's Maleficent and Warner Brothers' Godzilla -- have joined X-Men since. But all but Transformers needed months to do so after being released in May. By this time last summer, nine of the 10 top-grossing films of the season had already been released. From No. 7 World War Z ($202.3 million) to No. 1 Iron Man 3 ($409 million), all cleared that $200 million mark that this year's films are struggling to reach.

BoxOffice Mojo notes that this not only puts the movie industry behind last year's $10.6 billion pace, but nearly 13% off of last summer's pace. Disney's Guardians Of The Galaxy and Paramount's latest Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles reboot are being asked to salvage the summer during an August release window that hasn't produced a true blockbuster since The Bourne Ultimatum made $227 million after opening in August 2007.

It's all adding up to a terrible season for the movie industry. The little more than $250 million produced by this summer's top film, Transformers 4 is the lowest total for a top summer blockbuster since Mission: Impossible II topped out at $215.4 million in 2000. That year, the average price of a movie ticket was $5.39 and more than 1.4 billion tickets were sold for this entire year. The average price of a ticket today is $8.16, and the industry hasn't sold 1.4 billion tickets since 2009.

As our Keris Alison Lahiff reported, this is already taking a toll on studios including Dreamworks Animation. A slow start for its How To Train Your Dragon 2 -- which made $166 million in the U.S. through July -- crushed DreamWorks during the second quarter as the film lagged behind both Warner Brothers' The LEGO Movie and Disney's Frozen at the box office in 2014.

So what's the fix? Well, there may not have to be one. One of the biggest reasons that this summer has been so lethargic is the absence of key franchises. Disney's Captain America 2 is still the highest-grossing film in the U.S. this year after making nearly $260 million at the box office, but it missed the summer window with an early April release. Disney didn't have a known Marvel commodity such as Iron Man or The Avengers to trot out this year, but next summer's The Avengers: Age Of Ultron is shaping up to be a worthy successor to 2012's $600 million original installment.

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