Warner Bros. led major distributors as the No. 1 supplier of new films for the fifth year in a row, opening 25 new features during 1992. New Line Cinema, including its autonomous subsidiary Fine Line Features, also released 25 pix during the year to top all indie distribs.
Through Dec. 30, when “Lorenzo’s Oil” will open, a total of 414 new pictures will have been released during the year, down 5% compared to last year. It’s the lowest number of new films since 1984, the year before the video boom took over in earnest and produced dozens of additional films for the marketplace funded by ancillary investment.
For WB, a steady slate of 23-25 films per year has become the norm. There’s a more erratic pattern for WB’s competitors, with 20th Century Fox catapulting to second place from fifth place with 22 new pix. Disney’s Buena Vista distribution arm opened 21 new films (not counting its traditional schedule of animated reissues), the most in Disney history. As recently as 1985 Disney had maintained an output of only three to six new films per year.
Among other majors, TriStar has declined dramatically to only eight new films , or less than half its typical output. Adding together the Sony family of companies — Columbia, TriStar, Triumph and Sony Pictures Classics — gives the entity 33 new pix.
MGM/UA bowed just seven features during a period of depressed production.
Orion and its Orion Classics subsidiary each launched only three new films during 1992, but a reorganization promises a higher output for the coming year.
Some new blood was a boost to the indie sector, which overall released 269 features, ahead of 1990 but 6% behind the 1991 pace. In its second year, Fine Line opened 13 new films (up from five in 1991) to edge out parent New Line’s roster of 12 debuts.
Runner-up distrib Miramax Films bowed 17 new pix, with 14 coming from the parent company, two from its Prestige subsid and one from a new label, Dimension. That compares to 26 films the year before: eight emanating from Prestige and the remainder from Miramax and its now quiescent Millimeter subsid.
In addition, Miramax placed three acquisitions with majors during the year, as Paramount released “K2” and “Bob Roberts” while Buena Vista handled “Sarafina!”
Castle Hill Prods. boosted its output to a dozen new films to take third place among indies. Distrib also handled reissues like Orson Welles’ “Othello,” not counted in these stats.
Conversely, Roger Corman’s Concorde Pictures declined to six theatrical releases, emphasizing instead the delivery of nearly two dozen direct-to-video features during the year. Cannon opened only two films during the year, compared to the annual pace of 20 or more throughout the 1980s.
Two new distributors, Sony Pictures Classics and October Films, made the charts. Sony bowed four films after organizing in March, while October, which opened “Life Is Sweet” in 1991 to get its feet wet, debuted five new pix.
Growth also was registered by the Samuel Goldwyn Co. with nine new films, its highest total in some time, as well as relative newcomers IRS Releasing, Triton, Tara Releasing, Northern Arts, Aries Film Releasing and the renewed RKO Pictures Distribution.
RKO tentatively got back into the distribution wars in 1990 with bookings of its production “False Identity,” but it waited until 1992 to field a fuller schedule.
Analyzing the types of films distributed, the majors continued to emphasize American-made product, with only nine imports (representing just 6% of their output).
The indies collectively opened 34 U.S. documentaries, the most since 1986, when 37 were handled.