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Hollywood calls a wrap on US$3.8b summer, worst since 2006

[LOS ANGELES] The credits have rolled on Hollywood's worst summer in a decade, closing out with a dismal Labor Day weekend that was the first in a generation without a big, new movie opening in wide release.

The summer drew a little more than US$3.8 billion in sales, the first time the season's tally has dipped below the US$4 billion mark since 2006, according to Paul Dergarabedian, senior media analyst at researcher ComScore.

The holiday weekend generated about US$99.5 million in US and Canadian theaters from Friday through Monday, the least since 1998, according to Comscore data.

The last time Hollywood studios didn't have a big Labor Day release was 1992, and the absence of a new film this weekend put a capstone on what went wrong during the usually prosperous summer season.

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Studios spread their big budget pictures across the calendar this year, and much of what they did offer from May to September - new installments of ongoing serials - disappointed fans.

"Some comedies didn't perform as expected and there were some great movies that didn't resonate here, although they did better internationally," Mr Dergarabedian said by phone Sunday.

"All it takes are one or two movies to harm the bottom line in a profound way.

"The domestic box office is down about 6 per cent year to date compared with a year earlier, according to ComScore.

The holdover picture The Hitman's Bodyguard from Lions Gate Entertainment led the box office for a third time, generating US$13.4 million through Monday, according to ComScore.

It was forecast to generate US$7.1 million from Friday to Sunday and US$9.1 million through the extended holiday weekend, according to analysts at Box Office Mojo.

The biggest film opening this weekend was a re-release of Steven Spielberg's Close Encounters of the Third Kind, which opened in 901 theatres to celebrate the science fiction film's 40th anniversary, according to ComScore.

The film was expected to take in US$2.3 million for Friday through Monday.

The weekend also saw the debut of Tulip Fever, a period drama from Weinstein featuring Alicia Vikander, and the novel release of the first two episodes of Marvel Entertainment's The Inhumans on Imax screens.

It had been planned as a film but was instead made into a TV show. ABC will premiere the series in the fall.

Among other returning films, Warner Bros' Annabelle: Creation returned to place second with US$9.3 million.

It had been forecast to generate US$5.1 million over three days and US$6.7 million over four days, according to Box Office Mojo.

That puts it on track to be one of the few sequels this summer to beat its predecessor, according to Gitesh Pandya at Box Office Guru.

While sales were harmed by the lack of a new opening movie this weekend, Mr Dergarabedian is expecting an improvement in the coming months, kicked off by Warner Bros' release of It, a horror thriller based on the Stephen King novel of the same name.

"The good news is we have 'It' this week, and then movies such as The Lego Ninjago Movie, Kingsman: The Golden Circle and Blade Runner 2049 to come," he said.

"We are going to make up a lot of ground in the next three months."