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Lackluster Memorial Day box office: Economy or bad films to blame?

Big-name films including the Sex and the City sequel failed to draw the audiences expected on the traditional kick-off of the summer movie season.

By Staff writer / June 3, 2010

Sex and the City 2 brought in disappointing results, grossing less in five days than the first film did in three. What a disappointing Memorial Day weekend means for the summer movie season

Craig Blankenhorn/Warner Bros./AP

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Los Angeles

Hopes for a boffo summer box office have taken a serious hit after the worst Memorial Day weekend audience turnout at the cineplex since 1993.

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According to Hollywood.com, only 23.4 million patrons ponied up for what is traditionally the big, blowout kickoff weekend for warm-weather moviegoing. The disappointing numbers have experts poring over the somber picture for hints about why such big-name films as “Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time” with Jake Gyllenhaal and “Sex and the City 2” with its returning cast failed to woo fans – and what it all means for the future.

The economy is still first and foremost, says the firm's box office analyst, Paul Dergarabedian. “People are pushing back a bit as ticket prices begin to top the $20 mark,” he says. “Families are feeling the pinch as even kid’s ticket prices are heading up to $14.”

And then, of course, there are the films. “Good movies will bring people into the theater,” says Dan Hudak, multimedia film critic and creator of Hudakonhollywood.com. The sequel to the HBO TV show cult hit was just plain bad, he says, and the video game-inspired “Prince” did not rise above its origins.

“Hollywood is just underwhelming moviegoers,” he says, “and I don’t see any light at the end of the tunnel,” pointing to the four uninspiring films opening this weekend. They range from the family feature “Marmaduke” to an R-rated, raunchy Judd Apatow-produced comedy, “Get Him to the Greek.”

As he runs down the summer roster, he says the Christopher Nolan thriller “Inception” is the only bright spot he sees. “There’s just very little buzz about movies right now and that’s showing up in attendance,” he adds.

The entertainment industry should take the downturn as a wakeup call, says independent filmmaker Michal Abney, who points to the surfeit of sequels and TV spinoffs such as the upcoming “A-Team” as evidence of a creative bankruptcy.

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