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Box office success is at the margins

Market share is nice, but profitability tells truer tale

This is the time of year when studios mark their $1 billion box office achievements — both domestically and abroad. But box office totals don’t always tell the whole story when it comes to profitability.

Sony, Warner Bros. and Universal all reached the Stateside milestone during the July 29-Aug. 4 week, trailing Disney, which crossed $1 billion B.O. domestic mark in early June. Fox likely will reach the threshold sometime this month or next, followed by Lionsgate and Paramount.

All six majors already have hit that mark overseas; Par, which is trailing its 2011 take by 52%, did so last week..

But Paramount has released only seven films so far in 2012 — two fewer than by this time last year. Moreover, the studio’s fourth highest-grossing 2012 release, “The Devil Inside,” marks a significant financial coup for Par, considering the pic made more than $100 million worldwide and cost just $1 million to acquire.

Other studios have had similar low-budget successes: Fox did well with teen supernatural thriller “Chronicle,” which was made for $12 million and grossed north of $125 million globally. Warner’s recent femme hit “Magic Mike” cost around $10 million, pulled a worldwide cume of nearly $140 million, and counting, out of its hat.

While market share provides little clarity on profitability, studios often use it as a tidy publicity tool to point to healthy box office. But a slate’s profit ratio is the truest indication of success.

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