A gain of less than 2% in 2013 would give studios and cinemas
$11 billion in annual ticket revenue for the first time,
While studios are making fewer films, they are focused on
characters with global appeal that attract broad audiences. Action
pictures, comedies and historical dramas all broke $100 million in
sales during the past year, and theater upgrades that include 3-D,
digital projection and more comfortable seats have lured guests
back, executives said.
"We had a really great crop of movies," said Rob Friedman,
co-chairman of Lions Gate Entertainment Corp.'s film division,
which released "The Hunger Games" and "The Twilight Saga: Breaking
Dawn Part 2,'" the third and fifth top-grossing releases of the
year. "We had moviegoers who were re- energized."
"The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey," from Time Warner 's New
Line Cinema and Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer., generated $84.6 million in
opening weekend sales in the U.S. and Canada after its Dec. 14
release, a record for the month, according to researcher Box Office
Mojo. The $152.5 million weekend debut for "The Hunger Games," with
Jennifer Lawrence as the teen heroine Katniss Everdeen, marked an
all-time high for March.
"Tent-pole movies are now year-round events," Paul Yanover,
president of Comcast's
Fandango online ticket sales service, said in an e-mail.
With average ticket prices unchanged this year at $7.94,
attendance has risen in lockstep with revenue and is expected to
reach about 1.36 billion in 2012, up from a 16-year low in 2011,
according to Paul Dergarabedian, a Hollywood.com analyst. He
expects prices to be little changed in 2013.
Mr. Dergarabedian's forecast for $11 billion in sales next year
hinges on the success of returning comic book characters and
sequels, including "Iron Man 3" from Walt Disney, a new
"Star Trek" from Viacom's
Paramount Pictures, "The Hunger Games: Catching Fire" and "The
Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug."
Major studios have relied on popular characters from books and
comics to attract fans to films, such as Disney's "Marvel's
The Avengers," the year's top-selling movie at more than $1.51
billion worldwide, according to Box Office Mojo. At No. 2: Time
Warner 's "The Dark Knight Rises," which collected box office
revenue of almost $1.1 billion globally. It was the third in the
Christopher Nolan-directed Batman trilogy.
Sony Corp. expects
to be the top studio for 2012 domestically and worldwide, with
ticket sales of $4.4 billion, according to the company. It's the
first time Tokyo-based Sony's film unit has led the U.S. box office
since 2006, according to Box Office Mojo. Sony Pictures, based in
Culver City, California, had nine films open in first place in
North America, including "The Amazing Spider-Man," "Men in Black 3"
and "Skyfall," the latest installment in the James Bond
"It was one of those years where the majority worked," Rory
Bruer, Sony's president of worldwide theatrical distribution, said
in an interview.
The six largest studios produced or distributed 130 movies this
year, down 38% from 209 a decade ago, according to Box Office