Box Office: Universal, Disney Fuel Second-Biggest Summer Ever in U.S.

Courtesy of Universal Pictures
Universal's 'Jurassic World'

Other Hollywood studios found themselves treading water — or even going under.

Universal Pictures and Disney Studios fueled the second-biggest summer ever at the domestic box office, where revenue is expected to hit $4.48 billion through Labor Day — an increase of 10 percent over last year's dismal showing, according to Rentrak.

In terms of attendance, the season saw an uptick of 5 percent or more (since one advantage that summer 2015 had over last year was an extra week). Many, however, had predicted greater gains. A number of box-office pundits had boldly pronounced that revenue would overtake the record $4.75 billion earned in summer 2013 and set a new benchmark for summer's potential.

Those hopes were dashed when poor reviews and bad word of mouth capsized a number of high-profile titles, including Disney's Tomorrowland, Sony's Pixels, Fox's Fantastic Four reboot and Warner Bros.' The Man From U.N.C.L.E. Male-fueled, R-rated comedies also suffered, including Entourage and Magic Mike XXL, both from Warners, and Universal's Ted 2.

Outside of Ted 2, Universal could do no wrong. Thanks to a diverse slate of titles, including late-summer hit Straight Outta Compton, the studio's domestic take was a monstrous $1.5 billion-plus, representing 35 percent of all domestic revenue generated between May 1 and Aug. 31. And year-to-date, Universal boasts north of $6 billion in global box-office revenue, a first for any studio.

Domestically, Universal boasts three of the five top-grossing summer films: Jurassic World ($646.6 million, No. 1), Illumination Entertainment's Minions ($328.6 million, No. 4) and Pitch Perfect 2 ($183.8 million, No. 5). 

Worldwide, Jurassic World is the No. 1 title of 2015 so far with $1.65 billion. Minions and Universal's Furious 7, released in early April, have likewise jumped the $1 billion mark globally. No Hollywood studio has ever delivered three billion-dollar babies in a given year.

Disney's summer offerings generated an estimated $1.09 billion in domestic revenue to command 25 of market share (put another way, Universal and Disney movies accounted for 60 percent of revenue). Disney and Marvel's Avengers: Age of Ultron is the No. 2 title of the season with $457.6 million domestically and $1.51 billion globally, followed by Pixar's Inside Out, which is No. 3 domestically with $348.2 million. Marvel's Ant-Man is No. 7 with $174 million.

"The summer of 2015 has to go down as one of the more interesting on record, with an incredible mix of films from virtually every genre," says Rentrak's Paul Dergarabedian. "Notable records were broken, and a couple of studios truly dominated the landscape by offering the perfect slate of films that had audiences literally coming back for more — and happy to get the word out, good and bad, through social media like never before in the history of the industry."

Disney and Universal were up sharply over last summer, while Fox, Paramount and Sony saw steep declines. 

With roughly $615 million in domestic revenue, Warner Bros. may have improved its standing over a brutal summer 2014, but the studio failed to return to its prior glory days as summer champ. Sans a mega-tentpole, Warners employed a divide-and-conquer strategy by releasing 10 titles, an unprecedented number. By way of comparison, Universal released six, followed by Fox with five, Disney and Sony with four and Paramount with two.

San Andreas and Max Mad: Fury Road were Warners' two top-grossing summer titles, placing No. 8 and No. 9 domestically with $154.3 million and $153 million, respectively. Otherwise, the studio suffered a string of misses.

Fox was last summer's winner with north of $790 million in domestic revenue, but this time out cleared only $320 million after both Fantastic Four and John Green YA adaptation Paper Towns failed to wow audiences.

Fox's biggest summer title was Paul Feig's action-comedy Spy, the filmmaker's latest outing with Melissa McCarthy. The movie has grossed $110.4 million domestically and $235.9 million worldwide and is among a trio of female-driven comedies that prospered this summer. The others are Pitch Perfect 2 and Universal's Trainwreck, which has taken in $107.1 million in North America (Ted 2 grossed $81.3 million domestically and Magic Mike XXL, $65.9 million).

Fox placed No. 4 in domestic market share, followed by Paramount with an estimated $273 million. Paramount and Skydance Entertainment's Mission: Impossible — Rogue Nation currently ranks a solid No. 6 on the summer chart with more than $180 million. 

Paramount and Skydance's Terminator: Genisys was a major disappointment in North America, where it has earned $89.6 million, but has made up ground overseas (thank China) for a worldwide total of nearly $440 million through Labor Day.

Finally, Sony, in last place among the Big Six, earned a mere $172 million. The studio was responsible for summer duds Pixels and Aloha, though it did end summer on a brighter note thanks to Christian drama War Room.

Market share figures for the six majors could be revised slightly upward once final Labor Day weekend numbers are calculated.

Year to date, domestic box office revenue is up 5.6 percent, while attendance is up roughly 3 percent.

Overseas, Universal's summer titles amassed $2.09 billion from May 1 to Aug. 31 — summer is calculated differently overseas — followed by Disney with an estimated $1.27 billion, Warners with $746 million, Paramount with $629 million, Fox with $595 million and Sony with $233 million.

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