Summer 2009 has been declared the biggest in history as receipts through the end of August 30 totalled $4.17bn, beating the $4.16bn set in 2008.

This amount will rise to an approximate 3% gain when summer comes to a close with the end of the Labor Day holiday on September 7, illustrating a quirk of the calendar that means this year’s season is one week longer than last year’s.

Summer 2009 was the season when the crowded marketplace gave rise to precipitous second weekend drops as 60% replaced the 50% as the norm. Harry Potter And The Half-Blood Prince was affected in this way, as were Fox’s X-Men Origins: Wolverine, Sony’s Terminator Salvation, Paramount’s Transformers: Revenge Of The Fallenand G.I. Joe: The Rise Of Cobra, which remains active and has grossed $132.2m after four weekends.

The same fate befell summer flops such as Universal’s Funny People and Bruno, Sony’s Year One, Summit Entertainment’s Bandslam, and Battle For Terra, released through Lionsgate. Paramount’s Imagine That and Universal’s Land Of The Lost flopped too, although they did not fall so sharply in their second weekends.

The major releases that fuelled the record summer were Transformers: Revenge Of The Fallen on $399.4m, Harry Potter And The Half-Blood Prince on $294.3m and Disney/Pixar’s Up on $289.6m.

The sleeper hit of the summer looks like becoming District 9, which is released in North America through Sony and handled overseas through QED International and SPRI. The film flew under the radar and stands at $91.4m after three weekends and should cross $100m by the end of Labor Day.

Warner Bros’ comedy The Hangover performed exceptionally well on $270.2m and has been dubbed the surprise hit of the summer. However while the final amount will have thrilled Warner Bros executives, the studio clearly expected it to perform well all along and included footage in its ShoWest reel last spring. Indeed, a sequel was already greenlit before The Hangover opened in theatres.

Other successes were Paramount’s Star Trek reboot on $256.7m and Disney’s romantic comedy The Proposal on $160.2m. X-Men Origins: Wolverine did well too and took $179m despite an online leak days before the release that is believed to have robbed the film of as much as 20% of its potential gross to piracy.

Fox stablemates Ice Age: Dawn Of The Dinosaurs – a spectacular hit overseas – amassed $193.3m and Night At The Museum: Battle Of The Smithsonian took $176.5m.

Sony’s Angels And Demons disappointed with $133.4m compared to the $217.5m gross of its sister film The Da Vinci Code following its release in May 2006. However the film performed well overseas, amassing $251m for a $484m global tally. Terminator Salvation grossed $125.3m.