Global gains mark H'wood resurgence

This article was corrected on April 9, 2003.

The U.S. studios may gripe about escalating production budgets, marketing costs and talent paychecks, but their combined revenues from all media streams worldwide last year hit record heights.

Buoyed by blockbusters like “Spider-Man,” “Harry Potter” and “The Lord of the Rings” installments and a lack of local hits in foreign territories, the majors’ global revenues tallied $37.3 billion in 2002. That’s an increase of 18%, or $5.7 billion, from 2001, according to stats just released by the Motion Picture Assn., which are circulated only among member companies.

Their sales from all media surged by 19% in the U.S., to $22.4 billion, and by 17%, to $14.9 billion, internationally, including Canada.

Last year’s stellar results were also boosted by the weakening of the greenback against the Euro and the British pound. Currency fluctuations resulted in an 11% spike in the distribs’ all-media revs in the top 25 overseas markets, which rep 93% of the offshore pie.

To an extent, the gains mark a resurgence for the Hollywood companies after a downturn in 2001, when their B.O. shares in many markets were dented by a string of local hits including France’s “Amelie,” Germany’s “Manitou’s Shoe,” Japan’s “Spirited Away” and Mexico’s “Y tu mama tambien.”

“Overall, business is vibrant,” said one senior U.S. exec, commenting on the stats.

“In markets where we were in trouble due to exchange rates or difficult economic conditions, we saw a significant rebound. In markets that were stable, we’re seeing very positive progress.”

The stats reflect revs from MPA members, plus those from DreamWorks except in several Asian markets. They include New Line and Miramax sales only in territories where those banners’ product is handled by Warner Bros. and Disney’s Buena Vista Intl., respectively.

Not surprisingly, the worldwide homevideo/DVD sector registered the most impressive growth last year, up 31%. Theatrical rev was up by 18%, TV gained 7% and pay TV inched up by 3%.

Geographically, all media revs in Europe spiked by 20% to $9.1 billion; since 1998 revs from that region have jumped by a stunning 40%.

Asia Pacific revs soared by 27% to $3.2 billion, the largest year-on-year hike in the past five years.

Dragged down by weak TV and pay TV businesses in Latin America, revs from that region fell by 4% to $991 million. The Middle East/Africa revs were flat at $344 million but still 20% higher than 1998.

Worldwide feature film revs improved by 23% to $29.9 billion, due largely to rocketing DVD sales. Homevideo accounts for 55% of worldwide feature film receipts, up from 51% in 2001.

The U.S. companies’ domestic film rentals went up by 9% to $3.6 billion, while the haul from international shot up by 29% to $3.1 billion.

Europe generated a record $1.65 billion (up 40%), while Asia/Pacific reversed a four-year decline, leaping by 27% to $820 million.

Latin America improved by 6% to $319 million and the Middle East/Africa rose by 3% to $72 million, the first uptick in five years, led by South Africa and Lebanon.

Worldwide homevid revs climbed by 31% to $16.3 billion, as DVD’s dramatic 82% upswing more than offset a 12% drop in VHS. The U.S. had the lion’s share with $10 billion, while Europe contributed $3.9 billion, Asia/Pacific $1.4 billion, Latin America $297 million and Middle East/Africa $35 million.

Global free TV sales grew by 7% to $11 billion, comprising $7.3 billion in the U.S. (up 11%) and $3.7 billion in foreign (up 3%). Almost all of that growth came from feature films rather than from telepics and series.

Global pay TV went up by 3% to $3.3 billion, marking a 38% increase since 1998. But while the U.S. experienced a 7% lift in pay TV to $1.5 billion, international pay TV was flat. Despite the problems in that sector in Europe, pay TV revs from that region edged up by 2% to $1.1 billion. Latin America fell by 16% to $151 million, hit hard by falls in the two biggest markets Venezuela and Brazil.

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