In a summer whose biggest movie was a fish story, the final box office tally is a tale open to interpretation. According to the Hollywood Reporter, the 2003 summer box office (measured since Memorial Day weekend) set an all time record of $3.3 billion, up 4 percent from last year’s $3.18 billion. Measured since the unofficial beginning of the summer (the early May release of ”X2: X-Men United”), this summer’s receipts came in at $3.6 billion, up 2 percent from 2002, according to Nielsen EDI. However, the record-breaking take is the result of higher ticket prices, since nearly 5 million fewer tickets were sold between Memorial Day and Labor Day, for a total of 548.7 million admissions.
The winning studio was Disney, which took in $748 million, led by ”Finding Nemo” (the year’s top picture, with $332.4 million to date) and ”Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl,” which is just $5 million away from overtaking ”The Matrix Reloaded” in the No. 2 spot. A record five summer films (the others are ”X2” and ”Bruce Almighty”) topped $200 million, spreading the wealth more evenly than last summer, which was dominated by ”Spider-Man” and ”Star Wars: Episode II – Attack of the Clones.”