SONY TAKES STAR TURN

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Sony Corp. pulled in a record $1.55 billion in box-office revenue at its Sony Pictures unit, grabbing an industry leading 16.8% of the market in 2002, but this came at the expense of raising its overall ad spending for movies by almost 48.6% to $550.5 million, according to TNS Media Intelligence/CMR.

Sony had the No. 1 movie of last year in "Spider-Man," posting $403.7 million in box office receipts, according to Nielsen EDI data reported by Variety.

Sony ad spending was just above average for this major release, $35.5 million. Six other films received higher ad budgets, either at Sony or from other studios. But the box office pull gave the movie the best U.S. box office revenue-to-advertising ratio of 11.37:1, or $11.37 in box-office dollars generated by $1 in advertising. Sony had four other movies that topped $100 million at the box office-"Men in Black II," "Black Hawk Down," "Mr. Deeds" and "XXX."

AOL Time Warner's New Line Cinema, with its two heavy hitters-"The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers" ($230.9 million in 2002 U.S. box office) and "Austin Powers in Goldmember" ($213.1 million)-helped the studio to a leading $4.23 ratio. News Corp.'s 20th Century Fox was next at $3.88, but had the unusual distinction of being the only film distributor among the 10 companies to see its total ad dollars drop-12.8% to $279 million.

BIG AD JUMP AT DISNEY

Walt Disney Co.-owned studio, Buena Vista Pictures (third at $3.70), cranked up its overall theatrical ad dollars by 36% to $399 million. "Signs," "Sweet Home Alabama," "Santa Clause 2" and "Lilo & Stitch" were its $100 million-plus movies for the year.

AOL Time Warner's Warner Bros. posted middle-of-the-pack efficiency for its movies, with "Harry Potter & the Chamber of Secrets" its big movie of the year at $245.9 million, and "Scooby-Doo" the runner-up at $153.2 million.

U.S. box-office returns in 2002 rose 13% to a record $9.2 billion, gleaned from $3.32 billion in overall advertising, up 13.2%. They serve as a window to future returns of greater magnitude in the home rental /sales market, which hit $20.6 billion in 2002, according to Video Software Dealers Association.