Parsing 2011's Underwhelming Year at the Box Office, Month by Month

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What we can learn from the top-grossing films in each of the past 12 months

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It’s been a year of giant movies making relatively un-giant box-office hauls. Eight of the 2011’s top-grossing movies were sequels. Six were released in IMAX. Six were released in 3D. Everything seems to be the same, and audience fatigue seems to be setting in: 2011 saw the smallest movie audience since 1995.

But a list of the top-grossing films of the year tells just one part of the story. Like all things, Hollywood passes through seasons, and focusing solely on the biggest successes typically means overlooking eight months in a 12-month year. Summer is inevitably Hollywood’s most popular season; eight of 2011’s top-10 grossing movies came out between May and August. But what about the early onset of the spring movie season? Or the measured, diminished financial expectations of autumn? To everything there is a season, and looking at top-grossing film released each month helps to uncover the full arc of the cinematic year. Here are some observations about the contemporary movie industry based on top money-making film released in each month of 2011. Note that this list is based on data compiled by Box Office Mojo, and that a film’s gross refers to the amount of money it has made over the full term of its release.

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Scott Meslow is entertainment editor at TheWeek.com.

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