Year in Review: 2012 Movie Studio Scorecard
Overall, 2012 was notable for the movie industry in a number of ways: Two major studios celebrated their 100th anniversaries; six blockbusters of the past were re-released in 3D or IMAX; three new movies joined the billion-dollar club.
With all that in mind, here are some of the highlights and low points of the past year for the seven biggest movie studios:
(All box office figures via Box Office Mojo)
Walt Disney Pictures (Includes Touchstone) (NYSE: DIS)
It has been quite a year for the House of Mouse.
In early March, Disney suffered a black eye in the form of John Carter, the long-in-development sci-fi epic based on the first book in Edgar Rice Burroughs' Barsoom series.
The film opened in second place at the box office, and ultimately only grossed $73 million in domestic markets -- a major disappointment compared to its bloated budget of $250 million. While it performed better in overseas markets, particularly in Russia, it only made a worldwide total of $282 million.
In the end, John Carter's fate was sealed by a mixed critical reception and a media eager to brand it a flop. However, that disappointment was largely forgotten with the wild success of the superhero epic The Avengers at the beginning of May.
While Marvel Studios and Disney certainly had high hopes for the culmination of their experiment in building a comic book-style shared universe in movies, it's safe to say that The Avengers succeeded beyond even their wildest predictions. Starting with its record-breaking $207 million domestic opening weekend, The Avengers went on to earn a domestic total gross of $623 million and a worldwide total of over $1.5 billion.
In late June, Disney had another big hit with Brave, the latest computer-animated film from Pixar, which ended up grossing $535 million worldwide. That same month, however, Disney had another flop with People Like Us, which failed to even recoup its modest $16 million budget. But the company went into the end of the year on a strong note in early November with the release of another successful computer-animation movie, Wreck-It Ralph, which, as of December 30, had already earned $275 million worldwide.
Warner Bros. (NYSE: TWX)
Warner Bros. got off to a slow start in 2012. Its first big hit didn't come until the beginning of March, when Project X made over $100 million worldwide on a budget of only $12 million.
Unfortunately, the studio's first big release of the summer, Dark Shadows, was a financial disappointment, earning only $79 million domestic and $239 million worldwide, compared to its $150 million budget.
Warner suffered another flop in mid-June with Rock of Ages, which failed to earn back its $75 million budget. Fortunately, the studio was able to rebound later that month with Magic Mike, which made $167 million worldwide on a modest budget of $7 million.
Warner Bros.' big release of the summer was the latest Batman film The Dark Knight Rises. The film was a big success, bringing in $448 million in domestic markets and over $1 billion worldwide, but didn't reach the Olympian heights of its 2008 predecessor The Dark Knight.
The studio had an unexpected hit with Argo in early October, which has already made over $164 million worldwide on a budget of $44.5 million. But it suffered another flop later in October with Cloud Atlas, which has only brought in $65 million worldwide, compared to its $102 million budget.
But fortunately, Warner capped its year with the successful release of The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey on December 14. The first part of the three-film adaptation of J.R.R. Tolkien's famous book has already brought in $686 million worldwide as of December 30.
20th Century Fox (NASDAQ: NWSA)
Fox started the year off on a sour note with the January 20 release of Red Tails, which didn't earn back enough to ever cover its $58 million budget. The studio was able to rebound some with Chronicle in early February, which made $126 million worldwide on a budget of only $12 million.
Its first big summer release was Prometheus on June 8, which, on a budget of $130 million, made over $402 million worldwide. Fox's biggest hit of the summer was Ice Age: Continental Drift in mid-July, which made a staggering $875 million worldwide.
Unfortunately, the star-studded comedy The Watch was a major disappointment later that month, failing to even earn back its $68 million budget. Late September's Won't Back Down was another flop, with a budget of $19 million and a total gross of just over $5 million.
Fortunately, that was followed by the successful release of Taken 2 on October 5, which has earned over $365 million worldwide on a budget of $45 million. The November 21 release Life of Pi has done modest business in domestic markets, but has made over $300 million worldwide. And 20th Century Fox ended its year with the Christmas release Parental Guidance, which has already made back more than its $25 million as of December 30.
Sony Pictures (Includes Columbia Pictures and TriStar) (NYSE: SNE)
Sony's 2012 releases got off to a rough start with Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance in mid-February. The comic-book sequel only managed to make $132 million worldwide, just over half of what its 2007 predecessor pulled in.
Better news came in the form of 21 Jump Street in mid-March, which made over $200 million worldwide, compared to its $42 million budget. The studio's first big summer tentpole was Men in Black 3 on May 25, which brought in a worldwide gross of $624 million, enough to cover its $215 million budget and then some.
Sony had another flop in mid-June with That's My Boy, which wasn't even able to make back its $70 million budget, in addition to being reviled by critics and largely rejected by audiences. The studio also held the coveted Fourth of July release tentpole slot with its superhero reboot The Amazing Spider-Man.
On a $230 million budget, the film grossed $262 million in domestic markets and $752 million worldwide; while it certainly was a hit, it's actually the least financially successful of all the Spider-Man films so far.
The end of September brought two more hits for Sony, with Hotel Transylvania - $308 million worldwide on an $85 million budget - and Looper - $166 million worldwide on a $30 million budget. The studio's biggest success of the year arrived in the form of Skyfall, the newest James Bond film. As of December 30, Skyfall has crossed the $1 billion mark in its worldwide box office, only the third film this year to do so.
Sony is ending the year on a high note with the successful Christmas release of Django Unchained, which has already pulled in $63 million after its first weekend.
Universal Studios (NASDAQ: CMCSA)
Universal, which celebrated its 100th anniversary in 2012, got the year off to a good start with Contraband in mid-January, which brought in $96 million worldwide on a $25 million budget.
The studio hit a snag with Big Miracle at the beginning of February, which only made $24 million worldwide, compared to its $40 million budget. It suffered another flop with Wanderlust, which had a $35 million budget but only grossed $21 million worldwide.
Universal's first big hit of the year was Dr. Seuss' The Lorax on March 2, which made $348 million worldwide. The studio's first summer tentpole was Battleship in mid-May, another flop. On a budget of $209 million, the film brought in a paltry $65 million in domestic markets, and only $302 million worldwide.
More successful was Snow White and the Huntsman at the beginning of June, which grossed $396 million worldwide. Universal had its biggest hit of the year with Ted, which pulled in $501 million worldwide, making it the highest-grossing R-rated film of the year and the highest-grossing original R-rated comedy of all time.
The Bourne Legacy in early August was successful - $276 million worldwide on a $125 million budget - but not as much as the studio had hoped. The early October release Pitch Perfect was an unexpected hit, grossing $84 million worldwide on a $17 million budget. And Universal has ended the year on a strong note, with both This Is 40 and Les Miserables having made back more than their budgets in domestic markets alone as of December 30.
Paramount Pictures (NYSE: CBS)
Paramount, which also celebrated its 100th anniversary this past year, began 2012 on a strong footing with The Devil Inside, which made $101 million worldwide on a budget of only $1 million.
Unfortunately, the studio next release, A Thousand Words in early March, was a big flop, only making back about half of its $40 million budget. The studio rebounded somewhat with The Dictator in mid-May, which made $177 million worldwide on a $65 million budget.
But the studio's biggest success of the year was Madagascar 3: Europe's Most Wanted in early June, which grossed a massive $742 million worldwide. Paranormal Activity 4 continued the series' hot streak, bringing in $140 million worldwide on a budget of only $5 million.
The early November release Flight also performed strongly, bringing in $96 million worldwide on a $31 million budget. And Paramount has ended the year with the successful Jack Reacher, which has grossed $67 million worldwide as of December 30.
Lionsgate (Includes Summit Entertainment) (NYSE: LGF)
In many ways, 2012 was the year that Lionsgate finally went from being a niche studio to a real power player in Hollywood.
Things got off to a rough start with Man on a Ledge, which barely broke even, and One for the Money, which was an outright bomb. But the studio's fortunes turned around big time when The Hunger Games was released in late March and succeeded beyond anyone's expectations.
On a $78 million budget, the film grossed $408 million domestic and $686 million worldwide, and was the first film since 2009's Avatar to remain number one at the US box office for four weeks in a row.
Lionsgate's next big hit was Step Up Revolution in late July, which made $140 million worldwide on a budget of $33 million. The Expendables 2 in mid-August was another success, earning $300 million worldwide on a $100 million budget. An unexpected bomb was the late September release Dredd 3D, which only grossed $13 million domestic and $30 million worldwide on a $50 million budget.
But Lionsgate is definitely ending 2012 on a high note with the massive success of The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn - Part 2, released on November 16. On a budget of $120 million, the film has, as of December 30, grossed $799 million worldwide.
Without a doubt, 2012 was a year for the Hollywood record books. And while the movie release slate for 2013 has already largely been set, only time will tell which of the coming year's movies will succeed or fail.
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