B.O. ponies up $694 mil for Sony

'Spider-Man' leads the way to new record

The last dollar of summer box office has now been counted — and Sony can scribble $694 million in the record books.

That beats a previous summer B.O. record of $567 million, set by Sony in 1997 with releases including the original “Men in Black,” “Air Force One” and “My Best Friend’s Wedding.”

Distrib — which hogged a remarkable 23% share of all summer 2002 biz — was carried into the season on the sturdy legs of spring opener “Spider-Man” and then sustained by strong perfs from Adam Sandler laffer “Mr. Deeds,” sci-fi spoof “Men in Black 2” and Revolution co-prod “XXX.”

Through the season-ending Labor Day sesh, Sony has amassed $1.29 billion in total grosses this year. That perf already tops the previous annual B.O. record of $1.27 billion, set by Sony in 1997.

Disney finished No. 2 on the summer, ringing up $437.1 million in summer B.O., or 14% market share. Warner Bros. squeaked by 20th Century Fox in a photo finish for third place with $366.7 million, or a 12.1% share; Fox tallied $364.9 million, repping a 12% share.

New Line’s “Austin Powers in Goldmember,” a July 26 opener, proved the top perf between Memorial Day and Labor Day frames with $203.5 million. Disney’s “Signs,” which bowed Aug. 2, was season’s second-best perf with $195.6 million.

Industrywide, summer ’02 saw a fast start but a gimpy finish. At mid-season, B.O. was pacing 13% ahead of the same portion of last summer, but late July and August produced a succession of declines in year-over-year weekend comparisons.

In the end, the summer marked just a 2.4% increase in total grosses. Including estimates from the season-ending Labor Day frame, summer ’02 rang up a total $3.03 billion, according to data from B.O. tracker Nielsen EDI.

However, EDI figures there’s been a 3.5% to 4% jump in ticket prices since a year ago, when the average ticket charge was $5.65. So, there were actually fewer admissions than last year, with ticket sales well off from the record 549.8 million in admissions marked over summer 1999.

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