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Flops Like ‘Fantastic Four,’ ‘Pixels’ Keep Third Quarter Box Office Record Out of Reach

Fantastic Four,” “Pixels” and other costly film flops prevented the third quarter box office from breaking new records, although ticket sales did outpace last year’s numbers.

There are still three days left to go, but it appears as though receipts for the period between July and September will top out at roughly $2.6 billion. That’s approximately 6% higher than 2014, but less than the levels hit in four of the past eight years. It also trails the record established in 2011 when ticket sales approached $2.9 billion.

Going into the quarter, some analysts were expecting growth of between 7% and 8% over 2014.

“You just didn’t have that big breakout film that we normally see that surprises us,” said Eric Handler, an analyst with MKM Partners.

To be sure, there were hits, such as “Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation,” “Straight Outta Compton” and “Minions,” but not enough to paper out a very lean August, during which the “Fantastic Four” reboot and “The Man From U.N.C.L.E.” failed to attract crowds.

The last summer doldrums may be attributable, in part, to a different approach to scheduling, analysts say. Studios have begun to move major films like “Cinderella” and “Fifty Shades of Grey” into spring, fall and winter months instead of bowing them in the heart of blockbuster season.

“You’re shifting the balance of where the box office ends up,” said Phil Contrino, vice president and chief analyst at BoxOffice.com. “First quarters are starting to be much stronger than they ever used to be. Movies that would have been held until July are ending up in January, February and March.”

Given that the second quarter of 2015 set new records and the first quarter flirted with new high-water marks, box office prognosticators believe that the domestic box office could still surpass $11 billion for the first time in history. Ticket sales are outpacing 2013’s record numbers by roughly $75 million, said Contrino, and films like the James Bond sequel “Spectre,” “Star Wars: The Force Awakens” and the final “Hunger Games” are all due up over the next three months.

“We’re headed for a very big few months,” he said.

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