Mouse roars at B.O.

As summer pix loom, Disney, Miramax top of market share

HOLLYWOOD — Mickey Mouse is a market share stud.

Disney’s $300 million-plus box office perf for the year’s first quarter reps an attractive 17% share of the overall market.

Studio’s B.O. crown soon will be jostled by a crush of summer releases jousting for position. But for now, the Disney magic extends even through second place in market share rankings, with Mouse-owned Miramax ringing up $215 million, or 12% of the year’s B.O. through March 30.

That’s right, the Burbank conglom can gloat over a combined 29% market share from Disney and Miramax pics.

High-stepping Oscar best pic “Chicago” kicked in $144.7 million of Miramax’s quarterly haul and figures to gross up to $175 mil domestically. Pic opened over Christmas, but unwrapped most of its B.O. loot in the current year, which tracker Nielsen EDI dates from Jan. 6.

“It feels good when you get to realize the fruits of your labor,” Miramax chief operating officer Rick Sands observes.

By contrast, Disney’s industry-leading perf has been built mostly on 2003 releases. Steve Martin-Queen Latifah laffer “Bringing Down the House” was Mouse House’s lead benefactor, with $100.1 million, and Jackie Chan-Owen Wilson actioner “Shanghai Knights” contributed $58.9 million.

“The first 24 days of (“House”) did in excess of a million dollars a day,” Disney distrib topper Chuck Viane notes. “That’s an exceptional thing — especially in a month like March that retreated from the record month of last year on an industrywide basis.”

Paramount, which says it’s more focused on profitability than market share, is third in first-quarter rankings with $203.3 million, or 11.5%. Romancer “How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days” is responsible for almost half that total; its gross is at $101.1 mil and climbing.

Twentieth Century Fox, which Mouse elbowed aside from the top of the B.O. heap earlier this year, has fallen to No. 4 with $180.5 million. That includes $16.1 million in biz for its Fox Searchlight specialty division, which B.O. tracker Nielsen EDI now includes in the parent studio’s totals.

But Fox is within shouting distance of the May 2 release of “X2,” the studio’s high-profile sequel to “X-Men” and the first big release of Hollywood’s summer season.

“We’ve got some excellent product coming for the next three quarters,” Fox distrib boss Bruce Snyder figures.

Universal must be wishing it could fast-forward the release calendar to Memorial Day. That’s when U’s highly anticipated Jim Carrey laffer “Bruce Almighty” unspools.

But so far this year, the summer-centric distrib has unspooled only disappointing death-penalty drama “The Life of David Gale” and modestly received Working Title laffer “The Guru.” Its year-to-date B.O. sits at just $25.1 million, or 1.4% market share, No. 11 in the distrib pecking order.

In fact, U’s specialty unit, Focus Features, ranks one rung higher with $44.5 million, or 2.5%. Oscar darling “The Pianist” contributed $23.6 million of that total.

Warner Bros. is in a similarly awkward position, with its current ranking just below corporate kid sister New Line, whose “The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers” played well into the New Year. New Line’s $179.9 million is good for a 10.1% market share in fifth place; WB has rung up $174 mil for 9.8%.

Meanwhile, last year’s B.O. champ, Sony, is another distrib that’s looking forward to swimsuit season.

Studio’s seasonal tentpoles include potential behemoths “Charlie’s Angels: “Full Throttle” (June 27) and Will Smith-Martin Lawrence actioner “Bad Boys 2” (July 18). But Sony could start adding substantially to its current $154.1 million (8.7%, eighth place) as soon as April 11, when Revolution co-prod “Anger Management” unspools.

“Things look to pick up considerably,” Sony vice chairman Jeff Blake says.

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