The six major film studios combined to generate more than $4.3 billion in operating profit in 2013, up 23 percent from $3.5 billion in 2012, as digital streaming offset declining DVD sales and franchise films remained strong. But the riches were not spread equally.
The Wolverine, A Good Day to Die Hard and The Croods did well but fell short of 2012 hits such as Ice Age: Continental Drift,Life of Pi and Taken 2.MelissaMcCarthy and SandraBullock delivered a surprise with TheHeat, but The Internship and Runner Runner were domestic flops. Fox's TV Studio remained consistent with Modern Family,Glee, AmericanHorrorStory and TheSimpsons.
Sony: 'Breaking Bad'
$434 million to $295 million; Change: -32%
The studio gained $106 million on the sale of a music publishing catalog, but that was no match for the $278 million boost in 2012 from a sale of Spider-Man merchandising rights. Year-end hits Captain Phillips and American Hustle helped take the sting out of summer flops After Earth and White House Down as pressure from investor DanielLoeb has the studio cutting costs and focusing on TV.
NBCUniversal: 'Despicable Me 2'
$79 million to $483 million; Change: +511%
Revenue was up only 6 percent at its filmed entertainment unit, but profit soared as marketing expenses shrank. The samurai pic 47 Ronin was a misfire, but Fast & Furious 6 and Les Miserables were huge in theaters -- and Despicable Me 2, says NBCUniversal CEO SteveBurke, "is going to end up being the single most profitable film in the 100-year history of Universal Studios."
$543 million to $836 million; Change: +54%
Marvel (Iron Man 3, Thor: The Dark World), Pixar (MonstersUniversity) and a resurgence at Disney Animation (Frozen) had the studio roaring back from a 2012 marred by JohnCarter. While July's The Lone Ranger will lead to a huge write-down, Disney CEO RobertIger pledges allegiance to big films with franchise potential, "particularly those with action or family appeal."
Time Warner: 'Gravity'
$1.24 billion to $1.33 billion; Change: +7.3%
A post-Harry Potter malaise lasted only 12 months as 2013 was Warner Bros.' most profitable year ever thanks to Man of Steel and The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug. Disappointments like Pacific Rim were countered by surprises such as Gravity and We're the Millers, and WBTV, which boasts 60 shows on air, played a key role with such hits as The Big Bang Theory and The Mentalist.
Viacom: 'World War Z'
$217 million to $299 million; Change: +38%
Costs fell as Paramount released 10 films in 2013, down from 15 a year earlier: Lower-budget hits such as Anchorman: The Legend Continues and the independently financed The Wolf of Wall Street supplemented moderate (but expensive) hit tent-poles World War Z, Star Trek Into Darkness and G.I. Joe: Retaliation. Disappointments included MichaelBay's Pain & Gain.
Domestic box office is down 20 percent in the U.S. as "Sex Tape" goes limp and, for the first time since 2001, no film crosses $300 million. Laments one studio executive, “I wish I worked at Netflix.” Read More