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LOS ANGELES (Hollywood Reporter) - Warner Bros. had a billion-dollar summer after all.
Against all odds, the studio hit the magical milestone with an unexpectedly strong finish during the season-concluding Labor Day weekend. A week earlier, Warners domestic distribution president Dan Fellman had said it was highly unlikely its industry-leading domestic summer tally would top $1 billion.
As things turned out, the studio did -- by $10,269. Warners was helped by its 3D horror movie "The Final Destination," which topped the North American box office for a second consecutive weekend to arrive at a $50.4 million total for 10 days of release.
Warners did not match its industry-record performance from summer 2008, a period fattened by historically strong grosses from the Batman blockbuster "The Dark Knight," falling short of that grand total by less than $20 million. The studio has topped market-share rankings the past two summers, corralling 23 percent of domestic box office during the latest swimsuit season with "Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince," "The Hangover" and other recent releases.
"To do it two years in a row is an exceptional feat, considering that in '08 we had one movie that grossed over $500 million," Fellman said Tuesday. "It should be noted that so far this year, we had eight movies that opened No. 1, and we were No. 1 for 10 weekends."
Paramount came in second in the summer box-office derby with a 21 percent share ($885 million), led by the season's top-grossing release: the DreamWorks-produced "Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen," a $400 million grosser. Disney was third with almost 15 percent ($610 million) of box office from "Up" and other releases.
Industrywide, summer 2009 notched a 4 percent uptick in box office to a record $4.3 billion. Admissions dipped 1.5 percent to 570 million.
The industry's new box-office high was powered by a strong kick down the season's backstretch. Hollywood closed the summer with six consecutive year-over-year weekend upticks.
Editing by Sheri Linden at Reuters