MCN Columnists
Leonard Klady

By Leonard Klady

Gross Behavior: Summer on Low Simmer

The preliminary numbers are in and summer season 2012  clocks in at approximately $4.04 billion at the box office. The figure represents roughly a 5% gross decline in gross revenues and an 8% decline in actual tickets bought during the period running from early May through the conclusion of the Labor Day weekend.

The decline has largely been attributed to a record number of viewers glued to the Olympic Games and while certainly a factor, it’s only one element of the retreat. While there were unquestionably a significant number of high-grossing films there were fewer than in the prior year both in the mainstream and for audiences in the niches.

However, perhaps the most telling element was the season’s reliance on sequels, remakes and re-boots. While they are unquestionably a segment of any viewing season, once that tilt represents more than one-third of movie options it has historically translated into lowering the overall gross.

The current season’s market share leader was again Warner Bros. with a 19.5% share on box office of about $787.7 million. Ironically that was a 22% lower gross than the studio accrued in 2011. The majority of its revenues came from two films: the highly-anticipated The Dark Knight Rises and the wholly unexpected Magic Mike. On the other extreme, its high profile musical Rock of Ages proved to be a very costly misstep.

While potential franchise titles that fell short, including John Carter and Battleship, have been put under the microscope, at least they racked up impressive numbers internationally. The same was also true for Total Recall but that wasn’t the case for Rock of Ages or A Thousand Words and The Three Stooges. Conversely, the overseas gross of Ice Age: Continental Drift is massive compared to its domestic tally.

Among the majors, the starkest contrasts were evident at Universal and Paramount. The former veered away from retreads, apart from a re-imagined Bourne movie. The lineup of Ted, Snow White and the Huntsman and Dr. Seuss’s The Lorax outpaced expectations with only Battleship stumbling in the home arena.

Paramount’s performance was hobbled by the last-minute cancellation of its G.I. Joe movie, and its abbreviated slate rested almost entirely on a new animated Madagascar and The Dictator. The latter film virtually doubled its gross internationally while not taking off in North America.

The considerably improved performance of Lionsgate rests largely on a corporate decision to compete, as well as the development of more mainstream films. At the other extreme, the Weinstein Company lacked the sort of films that would have improved its placement though it scored a niche success with its U.S. release of Intouchables.

Having the right title or titles also were evident for Focus with Moonrise Kingdom and Fox Searchlight’s The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel and Beasts of the Southern Wild. And while box office was down for Sony Classics, the company had a more typical summer following last year’s anomaly of Midnight in Paris.


Domestic Summer Market Share (May 6 – September 3, 2012)
Rank Distributor Gross Mkt Share % Change Rank
(in millions) 2011 2011
1 Warner Bros. 787.7 19.50% -22% 1
2 BV 704.4 17.40% 17% 3
3 Sony 656.9 16.30% 34% 4
4 Universal 599.6 14.80% 47% 6
5 Fox 404.1 10.00% -12% 5
6 Paramount 300.8 7.40% -68% 2
7 Lionsgate 270.9 6.70% 763% 10
8 Focus 92.1 2.30% 148% 9
9 Fox Searchlight 57.2 1.40% 192% 13
10 Weinstein Co. 23.8 0.60% -66% 7
11 Sony Classics 22.5 0.60% -63% 8
12 Rocky Mountain 20 0.50% N/A N/A
Other 99.5 2.50% N/A
4039.5 100.00% -5%

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