There has been a lot of talk of late regarding the quality of films in our cinemas. Especially concerning the film studios that are producing them. In light of this; let’s take a look at some facts and figures.
There are six major film studios that dominate the international market. These are Disney, Warner Bros., Universal, Fox, Sony and Paramount pictures. Their market share is so dominant that in 2013 these six studios had 96% of the market and generated 1.14 billion in the UK alone. The other 4% generated just 42 million. Of course this is just solely looking at the UK; internationally their gross box office intake was much higher.
For a look at the gross of these films let’s look at the major successes of 2014. The highest grossing film internationally was Paramount Pictures Transformers: Age of Extinction (yes, I was surprised it was still popular too) with $1.1 billion -which at todays exchange rate is €980 million or £702 million for some more context. The next biggest box office success was The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies (which I admit I did in fact contribute to- wasn’t great) netting Warner Bros a cool $955 million. The third top box office grossing film internationally in 2014 Guardians of the Galaxy, a Marvel Studio’s production earning $774 million. Marvel Studio’s actually produces some of the biggest films of late and yet it still has failed to take down the six big kings.
Another factor in the industry being discussed at the moment is the insane costs of film production that is happening across the major studio’s. Many argue it is impossible for smaller distributors to compete. In 2013, Monster’s University (Pixar/Disney studios) production budget was $200 MILLION. Star Trek: Into Darkness $185 MILLION. And, Disney’s smash-hit Frozen 150 MILLION. After seeing how much the studio’s earn from blockbuster’s each year you may feel little in the way of emotion towards them.
However, bear in mind these are the year’s blockbusters earnings. Which is a highly risky game. For example, remember Pacific Rim? It’s production cost (not including marketing) was $200 million; it needed to make over $400 million worldwide to make a profit . And it did, just, coming in at $411 million. And thank god because it was pinned as the next Battleship. Universal’s idea of turning a board game into a movie was an entirely predictable disaster- it’s production budget was $220 million (not including it’s huge marketing one) – and it made $220.6 million overall. Without knowing the marketing budget we can never know how much was lost on it- but it has still be named an absolute flop.
And even Disney make errors. Film John Carter cost Disney $200 million in losses and Disney exec Rich Ross his job. I’m not even going to talk about The Lone Ranger. So will the studios keep churning out these high-cost high-risk films? It seems likely. 2015 in particular has been a huge year for these types of films and for one reason. Sequels.
Let’s put aside if sequels are good or bad quality films for the consumer; and ask are they even good for the film distributors? Maybe we’ve finally got sick of seeing rehash after rehash! Well, kinda… The graphic below depicts the box office performance of a few franchises worldwide in film release order:
So to conclude, the major movie studios internationally are playing high risk games of late. Supplying film’s with astounding production budgets and losing money regularly. However, there are successes. With the rise of the franchise and popularity reigning in particular genres not all is lost. However, were there to come a time when the consumer simply can’t take another dinosaur or robot film then it could spell trouble for the big six.