August Box Office Rises and Falls

by Brandon Gray

September 2, 2011

Despite a plague of pathetic new releases over the past two weeks, August 2011 ended up ahead of August 2010 in terms of gross. The month came in at $894 million, which was up two percent over last August.

August 2011 ranked as the fourth highest-grossing August of all time, behind 2007, 2009 and 2003. However, it saw the steepest July-to-August drop on record, as business was off 36 percent from July's $1.4 billion haul.

An estimated 111 million tickets were sold in August, off two percent from last year. That was on par with August 2005, ranking as one of the least-attended Augusts of the past 20 years.

Amidst the doldrums, three movies excelled: Rise of the Planet of the Apes, The Help and The Smurfs. Rise had the mightiest haul, raking in $151.5 million in 27 days of August play. That was the fourth highest-grossing showing ever for a single movie in August, after The Bourne Ultimatum, Rush Hour 2 and Signs, though its standing was much lower in terms of attendance.

Two movies crossed the $100 million mark, Rise and The Help, marking the first time that's happened in August since 2007. With $102.6 million in 22 days of August play, The Help handily surpassed most past comparable titles, including Julie & Julia and Eat Pray Love.

The Smurfs, which opened July 29, gathered $91.9 million in 31 days of August play and has had the best showing for a computer-generated critter/live-action comedy since the last Chipmunks movie. Slots four through seven were also filled by July holdovers: Cowboys & Aliens ($57.7 million), Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2 ($53.3 million), Captain America: The First Avenger ($52.1 million) and Crazy, Stupid, Love. ($51.8 million).

Other than Rise and Help, the rest of August's releases were duds. Final Destination 5 ranked eighth with just $38.8 million in 20 days (its predecessor grossed that much by day eight). The Change-Up brought summer's raunchy comedy winning streak to a halt, grossing a mere $34.9 million in 22 days. 30 Minutes or Less rounded out the Top Ten with only $32.9 million.

3D accounted for nearly $150 million of August's box office and was up around 35 percent from last August. The increase was solely due to volume: five new movies entered nationwide 3D release and they all flopped (Glee: The 3D Concert Movie, Final Destination 5, Fright Night, Conan the Barbarian and Spy Kids: All the Time in the World), while last year had two (Step Up 3-D, Piranha 3D). July holdover The Smurfs was the top 3D draw, but, outside of Glee's 100 percent 3D run, Final Destination 5 had the highest 3D share (74 percent).

2011's total gross climbed to $7.2 billion, down 4.4 percent from 2010 and 1.1 percent from 2009 at the same eight-month points, though higher than any other year. At an estimated 906 million, attendance was running 5.4 percent behind 2010. So far, 2011's still the least-attended year since 1996.

Related Stories
• July Breaks Box Office Record
• June Sees Box Office Dip
• May Posts Record Gross
• April Sees Box Office Rebound

Related Charts
• August Calendar Grosses (Premier Pass)
• 2011 Grosses (2011-only releases)
• Year-to-Date Comparison

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