China again drives overseas totals up 4%-5% over last year, according to early estimates

Write it down in the history books: 2013 was another record-setting year at the domestic box office.

Thanks to a robust Christmastime play period, which is estimated to be more than 10% up over last year, total B.O. is just $1.6 million behind the $10.837 billion record tally set in 2012, with two (three counting New Year’s day) days left to lift 2013 grosses even higher.

PHOTOS: Box Office: Top Grossing Films of the Year

Meanwhile, early estimates show that international totals are between 4% and 5% higher than 2012, driven again by the booming Chinese box office.

So far, domestic B.O. has amassed $10.836 billion, with totals potentially reaching the $11 billion mark for the first time ever through Wednesday.

SEE ALSO: 2013 Was a Schizophrenic Year at the Box Office

Even as Lionsgate’s “The Hunger Games: Catching Fire” bulldozed through the fourth quarter, grossing more than $391 million domestically through Sunday, the Stateside B.O. crown still goes to Disney-Marvel’s “Iron Man 3,” which raked in almost $410 million. In fact, “Iron Man 3″ so far stands as the only $1 billion global grosser this year when last year there were four. (“The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug” could reach those heights in 2014, however.)

Here are some other interesting highlights from the 2013 box office:

  • Spreading the wealth — The 2013 nine-figure club currently stands at 31, the same count as last year. But there could be at least three more films to cross $100 million over the next few months, including Par’s “Anchorman 2,” which is at $83 million domestically, and Sony’s “American Hustle,” at $60 million with plenty of gas left in the tank.
  • Franchise frenzy –This year, there were more sequels/prequels figuring in the top 10 with seven (counting “The Hobbit”) vs. last year’s six.
  • Toon uptick — With “Frozen” becoming Walt Disney Animation Studio’s second-highest grossing film, behind “The Lion King,” animated features figured more prominently among the 2013 top 10. Along with “Frozen” are Disney-Pixar’s “Monsters University” and Universal’s “Despicable Me 2.” (Last year had two toons in the top 10.)
  • Market share mix-up – Warner and Disney led the pack in 2013, while last year’s champ, Sony, dropped to fourth place after a troubling year. And for the second year in a row, Paramount ranks in seventh place as Lionsgate takes fifth.
  • Summertime madness — It’s still a summer/winter holiday game at the B.O. Only two of the top 10 films — “Gravity” and “Oz the Great and Powerful” — were released outside that period.

Looking ahead, the box office doesn’t appear to get any lighter during the summer, especially in 2015, when at least a dozen franchise and superhero pics already are slated to bow between May and August.

In 2014, the summer load is slightly less, with pics like “Spider-Man 2″ and “Transformers: Age of Extinction” expected to dominate.

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