Audiences proved their abiding love for comic book movies as Guardians of the Galaxy held on to first place at the box office over the final weekend of the summer movie season.
Guardians hit a milestone as well, ranking as the highest-grossing movie of the year, with the domestic box office weighing in at $274.6 million.
It added $16.3 million this weekend in its top spot (all weekend grosses are for the Friday/Saturday/Sunday portion of the holiday weekend only; final figures will be released Monday).
"We wrap up the confounding summer of 2014 on a bit of a down note with revenues for the final weekend of the season down vs. last year's Labor Day frame, but at least the ragtag heroes of Guardians of the Galaxy have much to celebrate,'' says Paul Dergarabedian, senior analyst for box office tracking firm Rentrak.
The top three spots were the same as last weekend: In second place was Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, with $11.7 million, followed by If I Stay, with $9.3 million.
The only new film to make the top five was the horror movie As Above, So Below, which scared up $8.3 million and crept into fourth place. Just behind was the bawdy comedy Let's Be Cops, with $8.2 million.
The new November Man, an espionage thriller starring Pierce Brosnan, came in at No. 6, with $7.7 million.
Rounding out the top 10 were holdovers: When the Game Stands Tall ($5.6 million), The Giver ($5.2 million),The Hundred-Foot Journey ($4.6 million) and The Expendables 3 ($3.5 million).
Also worth noting is that Cantinflas, the largely Spanish-language biopic about Mexico's beloved comedian, had the highest per-theater average of any film this weekend, earning $6,872 per venue. The movie made $2.6 million in its debut weekend.
"Labor Day weekend is not known as a hotbed of blockbusters," says Dergarabedian. "It's sort of the farewell to the summer. Nobody expects big numbers with movies that open."
The summer comes in about 14.8% lower than last year's banner year, and, adjusted for inflation is the lowest grossing summer to date since 2006.
Some intriguing trends emerged: All three Marvel comic movies, Guardians and the Spider-Man and X-Men sequels, opened at over $90 million. And women helped keep the box office afloat as well, both onscreen and by buying tickets, as Maleficent, Lucy, Tammy, If I Stay and The Fault in Our Stars registered as solid performers.
"It used to be all about the boys of summer, now it's about the girls of summer," says Dergarabedian. "Hollywood should take notice."