LOS ANGELES (AFP) - Science-fiction superhero flick "Guardians of the Galaxy" was on course to claim top spot at the North American box office this weekend as the worst summer blockbuster season in nearly a decade limps to a close.
The critically acclaimed intergalactic romp based on a Marvel comic added another $16.3 million to its five-week haul, taking its earnings to $274 million since its release, box office tracker Exhibitor Relations said.
With the United States enjoying a four-day holiday weekend with Monday's Labor Day, the final figures will not be confirmed until Tuesday.
However the movie industry is grimly expecting this year's summer season, the period between early May and the end of August when studios roll out their big-budget spectaculars, to be the worst since 2006.
According to the box office statistics website boxofficemojo.com, earnings have slumped this year to $3.77 billion, down 22.2 percent from the 2013 figure of $4.85 billion.
Analysts have blamed the slump on the failure of a sequel-heavy slate of films that have largely failed to capture the imagination.
Although "Guardians of the Galaxy" proved to be a hit, it is unlikely to break the $300 million barrier - the first time a summer film has failed to reach that mark since 2001.
In second place as the summer season wound down was "Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles", which added another $11.75 million to its take.
Third place was occupied by the teen melodrama "If I Stay," based on a young adult novel about a girl who surveys her life from an out-of-body experience after a car accident, which took $9.3 million.
Fourth spot went to "As Above/So Below" a thriller set in the catacombs beneath Paris, which took $8.3 million on debut.
Raunchy comedy "Let's Be Cops," starring Damon Wayans Jr, about two friends who become entangled in criminal intrigue when they dress up as police officers for a costume party was in fifth.
It took in $8.2 million in its third weekend, boosting earnings to a healthy $58.3 in defiance of savagely critical reviews.
It was a disappointing return to the box office for former James Bond star Pierce Brosnan however.
The veteran actor's "The November Man" was sixth with $7.6 million. The thriller stars Brosnan as a former CIA agent lured out of retirement for one last dangerous mission.
"When the Game Stands Tall," based on the true story of a US high school coach who leads his team on a 151-game winning streak, fell to seventh place with $5.6 million.
In eighth spot was dystopian drama "The Giver" based on Lois Lowry's 1993 novel, starring Jeff Bridges, Meryl Streep and Brenton Thwaites, which took $5.2 million.
"The Hundred Foot Journey," a romantic comedy with Helen Mirren and Om Puri as culture-clashing restaurateurs was ninth with $4.6 million.
Rounding out the top 10 were the veteran action heroes of Sylvester Stallone's geriatric "The Expendables 3," which took $3.5 million in its third week in theaters.