As summer officially winds to a close, the sad state of the summer box office becomes official: From the first weekend of May through Labor Day, about 552 million headed to multiplexes. That's the lowest figure since 1997, reports the New York Times in a look at the lessons that can be gleaned from 2010. For one, the industry is worried that it’s overplayed the 3D card—Cats & Dogs: The Revenge of Kitty Galore didn't exactly set sales records, and the jacked up ticket prices for the 3D experience could be partly to blame.
That may have studios considering which films to release in 3D more carefully. Another misstep may have been emphasizing the release date too much: Though Prince of Persia raked in $330 million worldwide, it was considered a dud because its plastered-everywhere May 28 opening date didn't translate into a mega-opening night. In general, a lot of much-hyped films failed, like Sorcerer’s Apprentice and Sex and the City 2. “You can hype up a movie like crazy,” says one analyst, “but consumers are smart and can smell a con job." Indeed, the brainy Inception was the season's breakout hit, and critical darling Toy Story 3 (click here to see the fawning reviews) was the top earner overall. (Read more box office stories.)