Warner Bros. tops distributor rankings

Studio has 18% domestic market share for 2009

On the cusp of a summer in which Warner Bros. will unspool its latest Harry Potter moneymaker, the studio sits atop the distributor rankings for 2009 with an 18% domestic market share.

Paramount, whose swimsuit-season slate includes the DreamWorks-produced action sequel "Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen," ranks second with a 13.9% share, according to Nielsen EDI. Sony, boasting summer pics including the Tom Hanks starrer "Angels & Demons," is third at 12.4% with one weekend to go before the May 1 start of the industry's most lucrative boxoffice season.

Boasting nearly $492 million through Sunday, Warners has used the bulk of theatrical earnings for its December release "Gran Torino," a $139 million domestic grosser in 2009, to stake an early claim to front-runner status this year. Its February romantic comedy "He's Just Not That Into You" ($93 million) and March actioner "Watchmen" ($107 million) have added to the studio's year-to-date lead.

"We have a great summer in store," Warners domestic distribution president Dan Fellman said Tuesday. "It will be hard to beat the (2008) success of 'The Dark Knight,' but we're in great shape to give it a good run."

Warners is set to release "Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince" on July 15. The most recent Potter pic, summer 2007's "Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix," fetched $292 million domestically. The studio's summer will be compared with its industry-topping performance last year, fueled by record grosses for Batman sequel "Dark Knight," a $533 million domestic grosser.

At Par, which totes a year-to-date tally of nearly $380 million, top grossers also include a 2008 opener: "The Curious Case of Benjamin Button," which has earned more than $127 million in domestic coin since unspooling in December. Its family comedy "Hotel for Dogs" ($72 million) bowed in January and remains the studio's top-grossing title of 2009.

Sony has built its $291 million total in 2009 largely on the $145 million domestic haul for its slapstick comedy "Paul Blart: Mall Cop." The studio is the front-runner to finish the spring with a No. 1 performance this weekend as its Beyonce-toplined "Obsessed" seems likely to open in the midteen millions or higher.

Other year-to-date rankings among top distributors include: Universal, 10.4%, $284 million; Fox, 10%, $273 million; Lionsgate, 8%, $220 million; Disney, 7.8%, $214 million; Fox Searchlight, 6.5%, $178 million; Summit Entertainment, 4.4%, $121 million; and Focus Features, 3.3%, $91 million.

 
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