Best year ever for SPE; Fox wins international crown

Though box office market share rarely, if ever, tells the whole story about a studio’s health, 2012 saw some serious shake-ups.

Sony topped worldwide, with $4.44 billion, and domestically ($1.768 billion); but its $2.672 billion overseas haul lost to Fox, which tallied $2.72 billion internationally. And Paramount fell from first worldwide in 2011 to dead last domestically, behind first-time top-five finisher Lionsgate.

Moving the needle for Sony, “Skyfall” became the studio’s first-ever billion-dollar film, which added to hits like “The Amazing Spider-Man,” with $752 million globally, and “Men in Black 3″ ($624 million), pushed Sony to studio-best tallies domestically, internationally and worldwide.

Still, it’s been an up-and-down year for the Culver City-based studio. Rumors of Sony Pictures Entertainment being for sale started circulating late last year; while Sony Corp. topper Kazuo Hirai publicly quashed such talk, SPE has cut back on pic production, with plans to slightly reduce its development slate, as reported by Variety .

In 2012, Sony compensated for such financial disappointments as “Total Recall” and “That’s My Boy” with global hits “Skyfall” and “Spider-Man.” Even Sony’s most iffy pic profitability-wise — the $230 million-budgeted “Men in Black 3″ — likely turned out to be a moneymaker.

Warner Bros. came in second Stateside, with $1.657 billion, thanks largely to “The Dark Knight Rises” and “The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey.” So far, Warners is third internationally, projecting $2.67 billion, though last-minute B.O. totals ultimately could push the studio ahead of Sony.

Disney, which scored the year’s highest-grossing release, “The Avengers,” ranked third domestically ($1.546 billion), with $2.089 billion internationally.

As the year’s most-improved, Universal tallied $1.335 billion domestically, 30% over 2011, with $1.792 billion internationally — also a studio best. Thanks to “The Hunger Games” and “Twilight” finale, Lionsgate, for the first time, landed in fifth place domestically, with $1.2 billion.

Fox, meanwhile, struggled domestically vs. overseas, as its fourth “Ice Age” installment, “Continental Drift,” more than quadrupled domestic grosses internationally. The studio ended with $1.024 billion Stateside through Dec. 31.

Paramount suffered from a drought of product, failing to crack the $1 billion domestic mark, with $1.562 billion overseas.

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