Red Eye Chicago

Sleeper summer opens some eyes

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For the past two summers, movie audiences stayed away from theaters in droves. The Hollywood studios blamed the theater chains (eeww, sticky floors), and the theater owners blamed the studios (psst, your movies stink).

Never mind all that.Audiences have returned to their seats at the multiplex. The summer of 2007 is heading toward a record-breaking season, with box office receipts currently running $3.8 billion, up 10 percent over 2006 and 6 percent over 2004, the previous most lucrative summer. For the year, the number of tickets sold (admissions) is up almost 3 percent from last year; that’s really the figure to watch, as box office dollars are not adjusted for inflation and ticket prices continue to creep up.

“If Hollywood builds it, audiences will come,” says Brandon Gray, president of Box Office Mojo, the movie tracking Web site.

Why the big bounce? Originalit­y isn’t that important. Eight of the 14 top-grossing films were sequels, while two were based on popular TV shows with a line of toys (“The Simpsons,” “Transforme­rs”) and one was a do-over—“Hairspray” was previously a movie and a Broadway musical.

“But they made sequels that people actually want to see versus sequels that people didn’t want to see,” Gray says.

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