Hollywood’s summer blockbuster season is winding down, and the near-final results (courtesy of Rentrak) aren’t pretty: After five years of box office records, total domestic box office for the 2014 season is down nearly 18 percent from last summer, or a whopping $701 million, to $3.22 billion. Last weekend, Disney/Marvel’s Guardians Of The Galaxy pushed the box office take by about 38 percent. This weekend, all eyes are on with Paramount’s Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, which is expected to grab more than $40 million, even while positive word-of-mouth is expected to keep Guardians from falling too far in its second weekend. The Guardians gross also could be in the $40 million-plus category if its second-week drop is only 50 percent. But before this weekend gets underway, Rentrak’s numbers reveal an interesting story just comparing 2014 with last year’s record run.

One industry observer noted the aggregate negative cost for films this year is substantially lower, which would make for better overall profits, especially given the international performance of many of the films. The observer acknowledged that the year’s animation and superhero pics as a whole are down more than $600 million compared to last year, but with 2015, that sector could pick up  as industry analysts have predicted much better performance given so many highly anticipated sequels and spinoffs. And the dearth of big-name sequels and spinoffs this summer wasn’t helped when the latest Fast & Furious installment was delayed from this summer to next April after star Paul Walker‘s death last November.

Related: Box Office Weekend: Behind The Scenes, A Fight For Screens

Bob the builder
1 month
+1 for this! Quality of content ultimately rules. Whiz-bang 3D isn't cutting it and audiences tire of...
R1969
1 month
Good. The MPAA, like the RIAA, is greedy and evil. I boycott movies because of them. I...
Mike
1 month
ticket prices are outrageous. end of story. i refuse to pay over $10 per ticket and don't...

But 2014 is still down. Even the big hits this summer aren’t as big as they were last year. A comparison of box office from the top 10 films of summer 2013 shows an even bigger percentage drop — admittedly only by an additional .05 percentage points — but the not-so-overwhelming performance of those top 10 films is a big reason for the poor numbers overall, contributing more than half of the overall drop, or some $422 million. If your big dogs can’t lead the pack, your sled isn’t going anywhere:

Bar Chart of Summer Top 10s Bar Chart 605px_1

Comparing the outcomes for specific movies this summer and last, you can see that even the massively successful fourth Transformers film, which crossed $1 billion globally last week, trails far behind in comparison to last summer’s domestic box-office champ, Iron Man 3In fact, if Transformers had come out in 2013 instead of 2014, it would have been fifth, behind Monsters University.

And amid all the conversation about big films and bigger films, it’s important to note a little film that has become really big. The Fault In Our Stars rode the social-media tsunami generated by original book by John Green, the rising stars of Shailene Woodley and Ansel Elgort and Fox’s smart online marketing to a $48 million opening weekend. Since that early- June weekend, TFIOS has racked up a whopping $123.4 million, not a bad return on a tragic little love story that cost a reported $12 million to make. Who needs a record summer for everyone else when you’ve got a 10X return on your own pic?

Summer top 10 box office 2014 2013 final