Sony, DreamWorks hoping for a better year

It was a good year to be Warner Bros. and Fox and a grim one for Sony and DreamWorks.

Among the specialty arms, Focus has reason to celebrate, while Fox Searchlight is hoping for a brighter new year.

Warner Bros. came out slightly ahead of Fox in 2005 market share, with $1.384 billion vs. $1.36 billion (not counting indie divisions or corporate siblings).

Both studios have something to brag about, however. Fox had 21 films in the market compared with WB’s 25, giving it a better take per pic. But Warner Bros. produced all of its top movies, while Fox got a $380 million boost from “Star Wars: Episode III — Revenge of the Sith,” for which it received only a small distribution fee from Lucasfilm.

Both studios experienced a healthy boost from 2004, when WB grossed $1.213 billion in second place and Fox was in sixth with $904 million.

Biggest loser was DreamWorks. With no “Shrek” and a limp year in live action, DreamWorks dropped from $926 million in fourth place with 10 films last year to $501 million in seventh place, also on 10 pics, in 2005.

Sony also can welcome the end of 2005. Following a No. 1 finish in 2004 with $1.3 billion, driven by “Spider-Man 2,” Sony dropped to third for 2005 with just over $1 billion. Decline comes even though studio had 32 pics out, the most of any studio this year and 10 more than in 2004. Sony also got a small bump thanks to movies from MGM that it distributed following the close of the acquisition April 8.

Also down: Disney, which fell from $1.157 billion in third place with 27 pics last year to $928 million and 23 movies, good enough for No. 4 in 2005.

Universal rose a bit on more releases, growing from fifth place with $905 million on 18 pics in 2004 to $1 billion on 23 movies, good enough for fourth.

Despite the end of “The Lord of the Rings,” New Line was the one mini-major to grow, thanks primarily to “Wedding Crashers.” It rose from $388 million in ninth place on 12 films in 2004 to eighth with $418 million on 13 pics in 2005.

Lionsgate dropped a bit, from 11th place with $301 million from 19 pics in ’04 to No. 10 for ’05, grossing $283 million from 19 films.

Miramax, which released 24 pics, more than any studio except WB and Sony, grossed $357 million to hit No. 9. In 2004, it grossed $381 million on 24 films, putting it at No. 10.

Among indies, Focus Features and Warner Independent were 2005’s big winners. After Focus came in at No. 14 in 2004 with $123 million from nine pics, “The Constant Gardener,” “Pride & Prejudice” and “Brokeback Mountain” helped drive it to No. 11 in 2005. Focus generated $162 million off 11 films.

Warner Independent grossed more than two-thirds of its money in 2005 from one pic, docu “March of the Penguins.” After barely registering in 2004 with $12.6 million from six pics, it rose to No. 12 in 2005, grossing $113 million on seven releases.

After coming out on top of the indies in 2004 with “Napoleon Dynamite,” Fox Searchlight sagged in a hitless 2005, when its only big performer was late-2004 release “Sideways.” Indie placed No. 13 with $105 million from 11 releases. It held the same spot in 2004 but grossed $173 million from 11 pics.

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