Box Office Pulls Even With 2012; Universal and Warner Bros. Lead
A troubling year-over-year gap in North American box-office ticket sales is finally closing.
Through Monday, revenue is an estimated $7.08 billion, compared to $7.07 billion for the same period in 2012 (Jan. 1 through Aug. 12), according to Rentrak and studio numbers. Heading into summer, revenue was running as much as 14 percent behind 2012. Admissions are also up more than 7 percent, although that figure could be revised when the average ticket price for the third quarter of the year is calculated.
If comparing year-over-year by the day, the gap will close either today or Wednesday. Because there was extra day last year, Aug. 12 fell on a Sunday. This year, Aug. 12 fell on a Monday.
The good news for film companies and theater owners comes even as Hollywood re-evaluates its big-budget tentpole strategy after a string of high-profile duds at the summer box office, including Disney's The Lone Ranger, Warner Bros.' Pacific Rim and a pair of Sony films: White House Down and After Earth. Nonetheless, the summer box office is still running at record levels and is expected to eclipse the all-time record set in 2011 ($4.4 billion).
The revenue boom is due to an unusually strong slate overall, including a number of more modestly budgeted films such as 20th Century Fox's The Heat, which has earned north of $154 million to date, New Line/Warners' The Conjuring ($121.5 million) and Summit Entertainment's Now You See Me ($115.7 million).
Disney and Marvel Studios boast the top earner of the year so far, Iron Man 3 ($407.8 million), but it is Universal and Warner Bros. which lead in domestic market share (a distinction that doesn't always reflect profitability).
Universal -- enjoying one of its best years ever, both in terms of grosses and profit returns -- is No. 1, with $1.15 billion in ticket sales through Sunday. Despicable Me 2 has taken in $339.4 million to date in North America, making it the highest-grossing film of the year after Iron Man 3. The studio's Fast & Furious 6 has grossed $238.3 million in North America, putting it at No. 5. The studio also scored this year with Identity Thief ($134.5 million) and summer entry The Purge ($64.6 million).
Warners, with total ticket sales of $1.14 billion, commands the No. 3 spot on the list of the year's top-grossing films domestically with Man of Steel ($288.7 million). And earlier this summer, The Great Gatsby did far more business than expected, taking in $144.7 million in North America. Another bright spot is the aforementioned The Conjuring. Among other releases, The Hangover Part III took in a so-so $112.2 million in North America, far less than the first two films, which earned $277.3 million and $254.5 million, respectively (the R-rated comedy likely suffered from opening opposite Fast 6).
Disney is No. 3 in market share ($1.07 billion). After Iron Man 3, its best earners of the year are summer tentpole Monsters University ($260.2 million) and spring release Oz the Great and Powerful ($234.9 million), which rank No. 4 and No. 6, respectively, on the list of top 2013 movies.
Fox ranks No. 4 in market share ($846 million). The studio has two films in the top 10: DreamWorks Animation's The Croods ($186.9 million) and The Heat. The Wolverine, released late last month, has taken in $112 million so far. Turbo, Epic and A Good Day to Die Hard have all underperformed, however.
Paramount did nicely this summer with Star Trek Into Darkness and World War Z, Brad Pitt's top-grossing film of all time globally. Into Darkness, placing No. 7 on the year's top 10 list, has grossed $226.8 million in North America; World War Z follows at No. 8 with $197.5 million. Earlier this year, the studio's G.I. Joe: Retaliation grossed $122.5 million domestically.
Sony's films have resulted in $603.9 million in ticket sales, putting it last among the major studios in terms of market share. Its top-grossing film of the year is this summer's Adam Sandler ensemble comedy Grown Ups 2 ($123.8 million).
Of course, domestic grosses don't paint a full picture of a film's fate, since Hollywood is relying more and more on the international box office.