Warner Bros. encored as the leading film distributor in the U.S.-Canadian market in 1992, as measured by the exclusive annual Daily Variety analysis of film rentals from theatrical box office.

WB has been the rental market share leader eight times since these surveys began in 1970, and five times since 1980.

WB’s 20% share in 1992 was the largest company share in four years.

Buena Vista, the Walt Disney Co.’s film sales arm, was a close second in 1992 at 19%. Since current management’s production program came on-line in 1986, BV has never ranked below the top three: it was first in 1988 and 1990, second in 1987 and 1991 (though in a statistical tie with WB in latter year), and third in 1986 and 1989.

Rounding out the top three for 1992 was 20th Century Fox at 16%, improving its fourth-place finish in 1991. Since 1980 Fox has been in the top three seven times.

Columbia Pictures in 1992 came up to fourth place with 13% of the rentals. This is the first time since 1985 that Col’s share has been in double digits, and the first time since 1984 that the share has been as high as 13%. In the history of the surveys, Col has never placed higher than third, and since 1980 has been that high only twice.

Universal’s 11% share repeated its 1991 performance, but the ranking slipped a notch to fifth. Since 1980 U has ranked in the top three six times, and its 1982 share of 30% still stands as the record.

Paramount’s 1992 share of 10% is its lowest since 1985, and the related sixth-place standing is its lowest since 1977. Par has been the annual leader six times since 1970, three times since 1980.

Warners’ top ranking for 1991-92 marks the first time a distrib has accomplished this back-to-back feat since Par did it twice– in 1971-72 and 1986 -87.

TriStar took 6% of the 1992 rentals for seventh place. Since activation in 1984, it has never placed in the top three, but its largest share, 11%, came in 1991.

New Line, which surged to 4% of 1990-91 rentals, slipped back to 2% last year.

MGM eked out 1%, while Orion’s financial woes pulled it off the screen entirely last year. Orion’s best year was 1987, with 10% of the rentals and fourth place.

Daily Variety introduced the market share concept to North American film operations in 1970, using the distributor’s share of B.O. as the measuring stick.

With latter-day wide release patterns, B.O. results have become available on a regular basis. Reflecting that development, Daily Variety also introduced B.O. market share analysis about eight years ago. Those annual results for 1992 and prior years were reported earlier.

But film rentals are the more important indicator, because distributors’ share of the box office pays for production, marketing and participations, and is the financial base for new production.

An accompanying table shows North American rental shares from 1970 to date, based on actual rental reports from various sources plus estimates of rentals from year and B.O. revenues. Supplementing these annual tallies are regular intra-year B.O. market-share reports.

The footnotes in the accompanying table contain historical data on several extinct operations, from the so-called “instant majors” of a generation ago (National General, Cinerama) to the more recent casualties of merger, reorganization, and fiscal pipe-smoking (DEG, Lorimar, Embassy, Allied Artists).

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