LOS ANGELES - The intergalactic misfits of "Guardians of the Galaxy" are the summer's box-office superheroes.
Marvel's cosmic romp topped the Labor Day box office with a three-day take of $22 million - its third time in first place since its release five weeks ago, according to studio estimates Monday.
With North American ticket sales of more than $280 million so far, "Guardians" is also the summer's - and the year's - top-grossing film to date domestically.
Summer slump: Still, summer box-office totals are down almost 15 percent from last year, said Paul Dergarabedian, senior media analyst for box-office tracker Rentrak.
"This is the lowest summer since 2006 in terms of revenue," he said. "Before 'Guardians,' we were sitting on a 20 percent deficit compared to last year."
"Transformers: Age of Extinction," which opened in late June, also boosted the summer box office with $1 billion in global ticket sales.
"Maleficent" was another hit, bringing in more than $230 million domestically.
"This was never expected to be a record-breaking summer," Dergarabedian said, "but it maybe came in under expectations."
Distractions: The World Cup may have distracted moviegoers, he said.
Also, the death of Paul Walker caused the seventh installment of "Fast & Furious" - which might have added around $200 million to the summer box office - to be postponed until next year.
Last summer broke box-office records with the success of "Iron Man 3," "Star Trek," "The Heat" and "Despicable Me 2."
Looking forward to next year: Next summer is expected to make history again with hotly anticipated releases including "Star Wars," "Avengers: Age of Ultron" and Pixar's "Inside Out."
"Summer of 2014 is a transitional summer between two record-breaking years," Dergarabedian said.
The top movies over the lackluster Labor Day holiday were the same as the previous weekend.
Paramount's "Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles" followed "Guardians" with $15.7 million, while Warner Bros.' young-adult drama, "If I Stay" took third place with $11.6 million.
"We went out with a whimper," Dergarabedian said. "We wound up a very exasperating summer on a very quiet note."
Weekend ticket sales
Estimated ticket sales for Friday through Monday at U.S. and Canadian theaters, according to Rentrak.
- 1. "Guardians of the Galaxy," $22.2 million.
- 2. "Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles," $15.7 million.
- 3. "If I Stay," $11.6 million.
- 4. "Let's Be Cops," $10.5 million.
- 5. "As Above, So Below," $10.3 million.
- 6. "The November Man," $10.2 million.
- 7. "When the Game Stands Tall," $8 million.
- 8. "The Giver," $6.9 million.
- 9. "The Hundred-Foot Journey," $6.3 million.
- 10. "The Expendables 3," $4.5 million.