Hollywood’s Shaky Summer Box Office Points to Larger Issues

“Recreation is, of course, a discretionary purchase, and that it has gone soft reflects greater caution by consumers,” Mr. Zandi said.

On a studio-by-studio basis, Hollywood’s summer was severely lopsided. The top 10 movies generated $2.57 billion in domestic ticket sales, and Disney commanded 51 percent of that total — with just three films: “The Lion King,” “Toy Story 4” and “Aladdin.” The No. 1 movie of the summer was “The Lion King,” a remake that took in $523.5 million in North America and $1 billion overseas (and is still playing).

Disney was humbled, however, by the performance of its newly acquired 20th Century Fox division, which delivered a hall-of-fame bomb: “Dark Phoenix,” an X-Men movie, cost an estimated $350 million to make and market and collected $252 million worldwide, roughly half of which goes to theater owners. Two other Fox movies, “Stuber” and “The Art of Racing in the Rain,” also fizzled at the box office. All were well in the works before the Disney deal.

Sony Pictures Entertainment accomplished a unique feat, releasing a juggernaut superhero sequel, “Spider-Man: Far From Home,” and a completely original blockbuster, “Once Upon a Time … in Hollywood.” No other studio showed that range.

“We believe in balance, and you can see this exact strategy in the rest of our year,” said Thomas E. Rothman, Sony’s movie chief, noting the “Jumanji” sequel and an original drama, “A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood,” which stars Tom Hanks as the television personality Fred Rogers.

“As strong as the audience is for superheroes and sequels, we limit ourselves to serving that audience at our peril,” Mr. Rothman said. “It will ultimately narrow the business. We have to think about every audience.”

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