I’ve been seeing the headlines for weeks now: “Disney on pace to have the biggest year at the global box office for any single film studio in industry history.” That’s what happens when you release Captain America: Civil War, Finding Dory, Zootopia, The Jungle Book, Doctor Strange, Moana and Rogue One in the same year. However, Universal set this “biggest year in film studio history” record last year thanks largely to a diversified line-up of hits led by Jurassic World, Furious 7, Minions and Straight Outta Compton. That left me wondering which studio held the record before Universal, and it turns out it was 20th Century Fox in 2014.
That’s right – the three biggest single years in film studio history have actually all come in the past three years, likely a direct reflection of the rising tide in China lifting all boats.
2014 FOX – Combined Worldwide Gross: $5.52 Billion
Takeaway: How did they pull this off despite not having a single film reach $1 billion in worldwide gross? By having a bunch of animated films as well as a “one of each” approach to everything else and hitting big enough with most of ’em, e.g., 1 big comic book movie, 1 big sci-fi movie, 1 big YA weepie, 1 big YA dystopia, 1 family friendly Christmas movie, 1 R-rated comedy, etc.
2015 Universal – Combined Worldwide Gross: $6.89 Billion
Takeaway: A sci-fi/action revival (Jurassic World), a testosterone action fest (Furious 7), a kid-friendly animated film (Minions), a couple of female-leaning comedies (Pitch Perfect 2, Trainwreck, Sisters) and female-leaning book adaptation (Fifty Shades of Grey) as well as the ultra-rare black-leaning blockbuster hit (Straight Outta Compton) as well as a couple of low-budget horror movies and would-be awards contenders and the occasional experiment – that’s about as diverse a release slate as you’re going to get from any film studio these days.
2016 Disney – Combined Worldwide Gross: $6.07 Billion (Could Pass $7 billion after Moana/Rogue One)
Takeaway: Getting by with fewer overall movies than either Universal ’15 or Fox ’14 as well as fewer actual hits since Alice, BFG, Finest Hours, Light Between Oceans, Pete’s Dragon and Queen of Katwee all either bombed or disappointed. This is clearly a studio which was almost exclusively swinging for the fences, and even with the occasional strikeout they proved to be the home run king, belting out Giancarlo Stanton-sized home runs. They ruled the roost with comic books and kids movies and nothing else worth mentioning, the complete opposite of Universal ’15.