Exactly 20 years ago, Independence Day made history when opening midweek in order to capitalize on the July Fourth corridor. Ever since, the holiday can be the best time to launch a summer tentpole in the U.S. — that is, if Hollywood has the goods.

But the past three years have seen few box-office fireworks. This year, Steven Spielberg’s The BFG is all-out bombing, while The Legend of Tarzan is not doing what it should when factoring in a production budget of $180 million.

“You need a big breakout debut over the Fourth of July holiday to power record or near-record box office for the frame and short of that, the holiday overall will tend to spark less than impressive revenue-generating fireworks,” says box-office analyst Paul Dergarabedian.

Dergarabedian adds that the vagaries of the calendar also make a difference. Last year, for example, the actual holiday fell on a Saturday, which may have negatively impacted the box office. This year, though, the holiday falls on a Monday, meaning a long holiday weekend in terms of the availability of moviegoers. Indeed, revenue for the three-day weekend (July 1-3) was up sharply over last year, or 40 percent.

Below, The Hollywood Reporter examines five of the biggest July Fourth box-office winners over the years, and five of the biggest holiday losers (ordered by date).


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