UPDATE: About that record summer… The box-office tracking company Exhibitor Relations tweeted Sunday that ticket revenue was actually down a bit from last summer. So, that would mean no record, but still a whole lot of money.
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2 took first in the Memorial Day-to-Labor Day race. It passed Transformers: Dark of the Moon in mid-August, and never looked back.
More than a summer hit, HP8 stands as the year's No. 1 movie, and the world's No. 3 all-time blockbuster, behind only Avatar and Titanic.
Elsewhere, Kristen Wiig's Bridesmaids distinguished itself as the only Top 10 summer movie that wasn't a sequel, remake or comic-book movie, while James Franco's (and Caesar's) Rise of the Planet of the Apes distinguished itself as the only Top 10 summer movie released after July.
Dark of the Moon made millions and millions and millions less than the second Transformers, Revenge of the Fallen—except it didn't. (Sorry, Megan Fox loyalists.) The new film killed overseas, making Revenge of the Fallen's foreign ticket sales look puny, and scoring the franchise's first worldwide billion-dollar behemoth.
Overall, Hollywood had a great summer—and a lousy publicist.
Conventional wisdom said the movie season wasn't all that hot because attendance lagged behind previous summers'. But the bottom line was enough people bought expensive-enough tickets to give the industry what Hollywood.com predicted will be a record $4.5 billion take at the domestic summer box office. (Check the update on top for another box-office firm's somewhat-more pessimistic take.)
The win came out of nothing and nowhere; moviegoing was not a booming pastime heading into the summer. As late as mid-April, attendance and revenue were each down 20 percent from 2010 levels. Now, those losses have been knocked down to single digits, per Exhibitor Relations' count.
The summer—and Harry Potter—saved.
Here's a quick look at the summer's top-grossing films through Wednesday, per Box Office Mojo domestic stats:
(Originally published Sept. 3, 2011, at 12 p.m. PT)