For the first time since 1998, Paramount ended the year No. 1 in market share, a victory made possible because it owns DreamWorks and distributes its movies.
In another milestone, six majors crossed the $1 billion mark at the domestic box office in the same year, besting the previous mark of four studios.
The sixth studio crossed the threshold at the last minute: With the coin earned over the weekend from “Alvin and the Chipmunks” and “Aliens vs. Predator — Requiem,” 20th Century Fox passed $1 billion and joined Par, Warner Bros., Disney, Sony and Universal.
After Par, estimates show 2007 rankings as follows: Warner Bros. ($1.41 billion), Disney ($1.36 billion), Sony ($1.24 billion), Universal ($1.08 billion) and Fox ($1.01 billion).
While market share is often touted to Wall Street as a sign of muscle, it only tells part of a studio’s story. Studios that churn out the most titles have an advantage in terms of gaining share, but that doesn’t take into consideration the key issue of profitability.
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Official figures won’t be released until today or Thursday, but the 2007 domestic box office is up about 5% to 6% from 2006, with total receipts totaling about $9.57 billion.
The four top-grossing films were Sony’s “Spider-Man 3” ($336.5 million), DreamWorks Animation’s “Shrek the Third” ($321 million), DreamWorks-Par’s “Transformers” ($319 million) and Disney’s “Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End” ($309.4 million).
This marks the first time that four films made more than $300 million in one year.
Overall, 2007 was an unpredictable ride, giving the film biz its best summer on record, only to be followed by a difficult fall. That was followed by what looks to be a record-breaking holiday sesh.
Estimates show that Paramount’s take is roughly $1.48 billion. Its top five grossing movies were all supplied by DreamWorks or DreamWorks Animation, although “Transformers” was a DW-Par co-production.
They were “Shrek,” “Transformers,” “Bee Movie” ($124.2 million), “Blades of Glory” ($118.2 million) and “Norbit” ($95.4 million).
The biggest Paramount non-DreamWorks title for the year was the 3-D epic “Beowulf,” which has grossed $81 million. Then it’s back to a DreamWorks title, “Disturbia.”
Paramount hasn’t been No. 1 in market share since 1998, when “Titanic” propelled the studio. DreamWorks never achieved the goal as a stand-alone studio.
Warner’s biggest title of the year was “Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix,” which grossed $292 million domestically. It was the only studio to have three films make more than $200 million: “Harry Potter,” “300” ($210.6 million) and “I Am Legend” (about$205 million thus far).
Disney came in third in market share on the strength of “Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End” and Disney-Pixar’s “Ratatouille” ($206.4 million). Also, nobody expected “Wild Hogs” to do the business it did ($168.3 million).
Universal touted 2007 as the year of its turnaround, saying it made the most it ever has at the domestic box office, fueled by such hits as “The Bourne Ultimatum” ($227.5 million) and “Knocked Up” ($148.8 million).
Fox, considered the most fiscally frugal of all the studios, had successes including “The Simpsons Movie” ($183.1 million) and “Alvin,” which will likely make more than $200 million domestically.
The majors did release their share of poor performers. DreamWorks’ Ben Stiller laffer “The Heartbreak Kid” stumbled with a gross of only $36.8 million. Warner’s “The Invasion” and “The Brave One” disappointed.
Sony didn’t see the grosses it expected for toon “Surf’s Up.” Ditto for U with sequel “Elizabeth: The Golden Age,” which only grossed $16.3 million domestically. Fox-Walden’s “The Seeker: The Dark is Rising” only grossed $8.8 million.