Many happy returns for Par; Sony umbrella up

It was a banner year in 1993 at the national box office as the film industry closed fast to generate a record number.

A year-end surge of moviegoing brought the year to an end with $ 5.04 billion in ticket sales. That’s roughly 8% better than the previous record of $ 4.65 billion, set last year.

Weekend box office was more festive than it’s been for the past six weeks, providing just enough gusto to push into the new revenue plateau.

Also, the actual number of tickets sold in 1993 was at a five-year high, with Daily Variety estimating 1.11 billion torn stubs.

For the third consecutive year, Warner Bros. and Buena Vista ranked first and second, respectively, among market share leaders. However, where Warner Bros. had squeaked into first in the past, this year there was a $ 100 million-plus divide and a separation of roughly 2% between the win and place studios.

The victory is also sweetened by the fact that WB’s revenues of $ 932.4 million were mostly earned by 27 new releases, vs. Buena Vista’s $ 828.6 million from 28 first launches.

Looking at the marketplace on a corporate level, the positions of market share leaders alter slightly. Sony — parent company of Columbia Pictures, TriStar Pictures, Sony Pictures Classics and Triumph Releasing — had a combined box office of $ 920.2 million, which would sandwich it between Warner Bros. and Disney. The latter, which includes Buena Vista and (since May) Miramax, climbs to $ 897.5 million.

Third-ranked Universal — the most-improved major largely due to the year’s top individual title, “Jurassic Park”– also gets a slight corporate boost to $ 706.9 million with inclusion of revenues from its Gramercy Pictures titles.

Finally, New Line combinedwith Fine Line Releasing translates to revenues of $ 179.4 million to finish eighth.

One of the year’s biggest surprises reveals that sixth-place Paramount was first among production/distribution entities on a revenue-per-title basis. The studio generated an average return of $ 37.2 million on an average budget estimated at $ 25.9 million. Universal was close behind, generating $ 35.7 million from in-house films with budgets averaging $ 23.6 million.

However, U retains a slight edge with 51% when the cost-to-return ratio is considered. Paramount’s ratio is 43%.

Market share leader Warner Bros. returned $ 33 million on average per title on films with budget norms of $ 27.9 million. Bridesmaid leader Buena Vista registered the lowest average return among studios, with $ 23.9 million, but also was among the companies with lowest average budgets, at $ 19.7 million. It had a marginally better cost-to-return ratio of 21% to Warner Bros.’ 18%.

Fox also had a good cost-to-return ratio of 30% based upon average B.O. of $ 31.3 million and a budget norm of $ 24.1 million.

Among Sony Pictures Entertainment producing entities, TriStar, with fewer in-house productions, kept budgets to about $ 18.5 million but on average generated $ 33.9 million per pic. That translates into 83% on the plus side. Conversely, Colpix had the highest average studio budget of $ 31.6 million and its 1993 slate returned $ 24.8 million, providing the sole negative ratio of -22 %.

Higher admissions

This year’s tally of 1.1 billion admissions exceeds 1992’s finish by about 6% and is an improvement of 2% from the 1989 high of 1.09 billion.

The expansion of the marketplace had nominal impact on most of the majors. Five companies saw grosses rise or dip no more than 5%. The exceptions were Universal and Fox, with the latter abating by 12%.

Despite the rapid evaporation of secondary distributors, those companies experienced the greatest growth last year. Indie leader New Line climbed 80% when coupled with its Fine Line subsidiary. Collectively, such indies as October Films, Trimark and Imperial Entertainment accounted for a 44% increase from that arena.

Singles and doubles

It was also a boom year for MGM. Despite not hitting a single home run, its schedule of singles and doubles scored a 57% revenue boost for the company.

Universal’s “Jurassic Park” closed out the year as the top single domestic grosser, with $ 339.1 million. The remaining top earners were: WB’s “The Fugitive,” Par’s “The Firm,” TriStar’s “Sleepless in Seattle,” BV’s “Aladdin,” Par’s “Indecent Proposal,” Fox’s “Mrs. Doubtfire,” Columbia/Castle Rock’s “In the Line of Fire,” TriStar/Carolco’s “Cliffhanger” and Col/Castle Rock’s “A Few Good Men.”

With official figures for secondary pictures to be confirmed today, 1993 results may fluctuate up or down by 0.05%.

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