Studio Smackdown 2013: Warner Bros. Rules World With $5.04 Billion, Disney Close Behind

Man of Steel Henry Cavill - H 2013
Warner Bros. Pictures

Man of Steel Henry Cavill - H 2013

UPDATED: Both studios cross the $3 billion mark at the international box office, a first-ever for a Hollywood studio and fueled by the likes of Sandra Bullock and Robert Downey Jr.

Reclaiming the crown, Warner Bros. was No. 1 in global market share in 2013 with $5.04 billion in global ticket sales. It's only the second time a Hollywood studio has hit that mark (Paramount achieved the milestone in 2011).

And in a first, both Warner Bros. and Disney crossed $3 billion in revenue at the international box office.

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Like Warners, Disney and Universal enjoyed their best years ever on a worldwide revenue basis. Conversely, Sony tumbled from No. 1 to No. 5 in market share after suffering a string of misses, while Lionsgate edged out Paramount for the second year in a row. Fox was relatively stable year-over-over.

Below is a snapshot of how the major studios ranked, including Lionsgate/Summit (note of caution: market share doesn't equal profitability).

Warner Bros.

Warner Bros.'s domestic revenue was $1.9 billion, while its overseas haul was $3.14 billion for a total $5.04 billion, up from $4.25 in 2012. The studio's performance was fueled by a varied menu of films, led by Superman reboot Man of Steel ($662.8 million, Gravity ($653.3) -- perhaps the biggest surprise of the year -- and The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug, which has earned $633.1 million to date.

The studio lost its No. 1 global standing to Paramount in 2011 and to Sony a last year.

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"We are thrilled that we had such a strong year. We started soft, and then built and built. Beginning in the summer, we had six movies in a row that did over $100 million domestically, which has never been done before," said Warner Bros. head of domestic distribution Dan Fellman. "Our company has been very consistent. We've ranked No. 1 or No. 2 domestically nine out of the last 10 years. We've also been very strong internationally."

The company's big miss globally in 2013 was Jack the Giant Slayer ($197.7 million), while Pacific Rim underperformed domestically ($101.8 million). Notable performers worldwide included The Great Gatsby ($348.8 million), The Conjuring ($316.7 million) and We're the Millers ($269.2 million). WB also did well by Legendary Entertainment's Jackie Robinson biopic 42, which took in $98 million domestically.

One person who won't likely be celebrating WB's success is former film chief Jeff Robinov, who was forced out earlier this year.


Like WB, Disney enjoyed its best year in history, all the more impressive considering that it releases far fewer films (10 versus the 19 released by WB). Disney's domestic revenue clocked in at $1.72 billion, up 11 percent over 2012. International revenue reached $3.01 billion for a global total for north of $4.73 million, compared to $3.6 billion in 2012.

Iron Man 3 led with $1.2 billion (it was the only 2013 release to hit $1 billion), followed by Monsters University ($743.6 million) and Thor: The Dark World ($629.9 million). The studio's Thanksgiving animated tentpole Frozen continues to rule the year-end box office, grossing $515.3 million to date.

The Lone Ranger, however, was a disaster for the studio, resulting in a loss of at least $190 million.

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Despicable Me 2 ($918.8 million) and Fast & Furious 6 ($788.7 million) helped propel the studio's global revenue to $3.67 billion ($1.42 billion domestic and $2.25 billion internationally), compared to $3.13 billion in 2012. Breakout hits included the modestly budgeted Identity Thief ($176.2 million), Mama ($147.8 million), The Purge ($90.9 million) and The Best Man Holiday ($70 million).

Universal has never crossed the $2 billion mark internationally before.

But it didn't end without tumult. Universal Pictures chairman Adam Fogleson was ousted in September, while Fast & Furious star  Paul Walker died over Thanksgiving, prompting Fast & Furious 7 to be delayed. And, as expected, samurai epic 47 Ronin bombed at the Christmas box office.


The studio remained relatively stable in 2013. Global revenue reached $3.40 billion, slightly down from $3.74 billion in ticket sales in 2012. The studio's stop performers were DreamWorks Animation's The Croods ($587.2 billion), The Wolverine ($414.8 million) and A Good Day to Die Hard ($304.7 million). Melissa McCarthy and Sandra Bullock comedy The Heat was a breakout for the studio, earning $229.9 million.

Bombs included The Internship ($93.5 million) and Runner Runner ($62.7 million). Both of those films did far better overseas.


The studio had a tough year, with global revenue coming in more than a billion dollars below 2012 ($3.01 billion versus $4.4 billion). Domestically, ticket sales reached $1.14 billion and internationally, $1.91 billion. A string of disappointments, including After Earth and White House Down, has prompted parent Sony to request cost-cutting, while marketing chief Marc Weinstock was shown the door. 

Sony is ending the year on a better note. Earlier this month, news broke that Michael De Luca is joining the studio as president of production, while award contenders Captain Phillips and American Hustle are both doing strong business at the box office, earning north of $210 million and $73 million to date, respectively.

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For the second year in a row, Lionsgate edged out Paramount to come in No. 6 in global market share. Total ticket sales reached $2.32 billion, fueled by The Hunger Games: Catching Fire, which has earned $797.5 million to date. The studio's other standout was summer hit Now You See Me, which took in $351.7 million worldwide. One sore spot was Ender's Game, which grossed a disappointing $88.4 million for Summit in the U.S.


Paramount wasn't far behind last year's total global ticket sales ($2.47 billion versus $2.31 billion) and pulled off the biggest rescue effort of the year with Brad Pitt's World War Z, which, against the odds, took in $540 million worldwide. That was followed by Star Trek: Into Darkness ($467.4 million) and G.I. Joe: Retaliation ($375.7 million). Paramount was bomb-free in 2013.