As far as the film industry is concerned, it's a long hot summer. It defies seasonal or calendar considerations, running 18 weeks from early May through to the first weekend in September.

At the conclusion of summer 2007, about $4.2bn was spent in North American multiplexes and an additional $6.3bn worth of tickets were sold in the rest of the world. No one is going to say that $10.5bn isn't a lot of money. Whether it is enough is another matter.

Benjamin Disraeli is credited as saying that the three things he hated most were lies, damn lies and statistics and that was said decades before there was a film industry.

Diminishing returns

Let's begin with the obvious. More money was spent going to the movies this summer than ever before. However, that's obviously not the same thing as more people going to the movies. About 58% of the summer total was generated by 10 movies - and seven of them had numbers in their titles.

As we all know, franchises generally cost a lot of money. It's also pretty much the case that as the numbers ascend so does the cost.

In some instances, in order to get these vaunted titles made, what also increases is the amount given to talent in both salary and profit participation.

So, logically speaking, the higher-numbered movies need to gross more or the profit margin will shrink and this summer virtually every movie that was part of a franchise grossed less than the lower numbers in the series.

This is also one of the times of the year when it's apt to be asked what the lessons learned were. It's presumptuous of course to assume that anyone either learns from mistakes or changes his behavior as a result. But setting that aside, let's interject a truism: you can't fix a problem by tossing more money at it.

The "problem," or at least the most salient one, is that the movie-going audience is shrinking. The reason for this is that the majority of the population isn't interested in going to see Transformers, Spider-Man 3 or Die Hard 4.0. They might be interested in seeing Hairspray or No Reservations, or they might prefer something more serious and they'll be hard pressed to find it on the marquee.

A dilemma of sorts is that the alternative to the summer blockbuster is rarely something that will spawn a sequel. It might be a profitable venture but it won't gross $300m and generate ancillary revenue from lunch boxes and action figures.

Contradiction in terms

Still you have to question the wisdom of abandoning everyone born prior to 1980 for 18 weeks and, in truth, pretty much year round.

Film executives will proffer that "serious" films don't do well during the summer, but the evidence is anecdotal. They also used to say that Europe didn't go to the movies during the summer, particularly Italians, but they also say that if the product is there people will come.

A studio executive once responded to an observation by stating that it made so much sense it probably would never happen. He also said, quite sagely, that the industry responds best to catastrophe. But will they recognise it before someone comes in and carts off the furniture.