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U.S. Summer Box Office Surges Back to Near-Record Levels

The U.S. Summer box office totaled $2.09 billion through June 27, up 16% so far compared to the same period last year. The summer of 2017, of course, was spectacularly bad, which pummeled film industry stocks. But thanks to solid hits like Incredibles 2 and Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom, this year is also only 3% off pace compared to 2013’s record-breaking total, which was $2.19 billion at this point.

According to calculations by Deadline, in fact, this summer has been even better than it appears at the box office. That’s because Disney’s Avengers: Infinity War was released on April 27, putting it just outside the traditional summer box office window, which starts on the first Friday in May. Adding Infinity War’s titanic $415.1M haul into the mix, Deadline posits a more accurate running summer box office total of $2.5 billion – 10% ahead of 2013 totals at this point.

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There’s still a lot of summer left – the season officially ends on Labor Day, September 3 – so projections thus far are very tentative. And there is a degree of fragility behind the big numbers. Rising ticket prices, rather than simply rising attendance, account for a portion of the higher total. And box office reporting doesn’t adjust for inflation, making “records” more broadly questionable.

Still, this year’s reversal is clear, and the momentum marks at least a temporary stay of execution for an industry long believed to be under threat from home streaming and other entertainment competition.

The numbers are less rosy, though, for one of the most controversial startups of the past year. MoviePass dramatically cut the price of its subscription theater-ticket service immediately after 2017’s disastrous summer, and its entire business was premised on continued declines in theater attendance. MoviePass charges many of its subscribers less than $10 a month, but allows them to see up to one film a day, with the company footing the full ticket price.

MoviePass has over the past year said that it could turn the inevitable losses of that model into profits by muscling theaters into cutting it deals, because it could prop up attendance. But it has already tweaked its deal with subscribers several times, including recently announcing it might impose surcharges for some screenings. Between resurgent ticket sales and a new, arguably superior subscription plan from MoviePass arch-nemesis AMC, the challenges facing that plan appear to be growing.