A lacklustre session allowed Guardians Of The Galaxy to take advantage of a lightweight trio of releases to return to the top and become the leading film of the summer.

In the penultimate weekend of Hollywod’s summer season, Frank Miller’s Sin City: A Dame To Kill For crashed at number eight on $6.5m from 2,894 theatres for a $2,238 average through Weinstein/Dimension.

The launch did not compare favourably with that of the 2005 original’s $29.1m number one debut, which equates to $35.5m in today’s prices.

Sin City finished on $74.1m in North America and $159m worldwide and it would appear highly unlikely the sequel gets anywhere near that.

Jessica Alba, Rosario Dawson, Mickey Rourke, Bruce Willis and Powers Boothe are among the returning cast and are joined by Josh Brolin, Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Eva Green.

The release was emblematic of a largely low-key summer at the box office that trails summer 2013 by some 15%, although last year was a record and cycles are determined by product flow.

Hopes are higher than ever for summer 2015, when highlights are anticipated from Avengers: Age Of Ultron, Star Wars: Episode VII, Terminator: Genisys, Ted 2, Jurassic World, Mad Max: Fury Road, Magic Mike 2, Ant Man and The Fantastic Four, among others.

Warner Bros-MGM’s $11m YA adaptation If I Stay starring Chloe Moretz arrived at number three on a passable $16.4m, while faith-based drama When The Game Stands Tall arrived at number five on a decent $9m.

Paramount and Nickelodeon Movies’ Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles fell one place to number two on $16.8m for a solid $145.6m after three.

Piracy-hit The Expendables 3 – by some estimates 5 million people watched the film illegally worldwide before its release last weekend – added $6.6m in the second weekend for $27.5m.

Overall the top 12 trailed last weekend by 18.3% but finished ahead of the comparable 2013 session by approximately 15%.

The good new for Disney is that Guardians Of The Galaxy moved back to number one in its fourth weekend as $17.6m propelled the running total to $251.9m to become the biggest release of the summer season and the third biggest film so far in 2014 behind Captain America: The Winter Soldier on $259.8m and The Lego Movie on $257.7m.

Guardians should overtake both films by the end of Labor Day weekend next weekend to round out the summer as the biggest release of the year-to-date.

In North America, Guardians has exceeded the final tallies of X-Men: Days Of Future Past ($232m), Thor: The Dark World ($206m), The Amazing Spider-Man 2 ($203m), Thor ($181m) and Captain America: The First Avenger ($177m).

SPC opened Sundance acquisition Love Is Strange on $127,000 from five for a typically robust average of $25,400.

Roadside opened The One I Love, also a Sundance buy, on $55,100 from nine.

Next weekend’s wide releases over the Labor Day holiday are Legendary Pictures’ horror film As Above/So Below via Universal and spy thriller The November Man starring Pierce Brosnan and Olga Kurylenko through Relativity Media.

Estimated Top 10 North America Aug 22-24 2014
Film (Dist) / Est wkd gross / Est total to date

1 (2) Guardians Of The Galaxy (Buena Vista/Marvel) WDSMPI $17.6m $251.9m

2 (1) Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (Paramount) PPI $16.8m $145.6m

3 (-) If I Stay (Warner Bros-MGM) WBPI $16.4m –

4 (3) Let’s Be Cops (Fox) Fox International $11m $45.2m

5 (-) When The Game Stands Tall (TriStar) SPWA $9m –

6 (5) The Giver (TWC) TWC International $6.7m $24.1m

7 (4) The Expendables 3 (Lionsgate) Nu Image $6.6m $27.5m

8 (-) Frank Miller’s Sin City: A Dame To Kill (Weinstein/Dimensin) Aldamisa International $6.5m –

9 (7) The Hundred-Foot Journey (Buena Vista-Participant Media) WDSMPI $5.6m $32.8m

10 (6) Into The Storm (Warner Bros-New Line-Village Roadshow) WBPI $3.8m $38.3m