There's something to be said for consistency. Universal's 2009 grades? D+ and D. In 2010? D+ and D. 2011? Well, you get the idea.
Yes, the studio had two surprise hits in the raunchy comedy Bridesmaids ($288 million globally) and the action sequel Fast Five (a franchise-best $626 million worldwide). Yes, Universal's domestic grosses were actually up 18% last year compared to 2010, while foreign receipts increased by about 9%. But when you are starting off at the bottom of the pack—which is where Universal was in 2010—it'll take more than that for a successful year. Still, the studio is no longer in last place among the big six in domestic market share (it's now in 5th), which counts as something of an achievement, especially given that the studio's 2011 lineup included major flops like the stoner comedy Your Highness and Tom Hanks' Larry Crowne.
One problem, of course, is that Universal also managed to release just two good films all year—the very same two movies that also were its biggest hits of the year. The remaining 87% of the studio's releases received poor or mediocre reviews from professional critics, giving Universal an average Metascore of 49.3, good for fourth place among the major studios. While that average is up nearly four points compared to the year before, it's nothing to be proud of, and it's a poor start for new Universal owners Comcast. Universal also managed to secure just two total Oscar nominations this year, with both coming for a single movie, Bridesmaids.
What about the year ahead? Let's just say that if your first-half hopes depend on a movie based on a board game (Battleship), and the second of two Snow White movies in a single calendar year (Snow White and the Huntsman), things aren't looking too rosy. Some help could come in the back half of the year, however, if a new Bourne film (though without Matt Damon), an adaptation of the musical Les Miserables, and Judd Apatow's Knocked Up sequel manage to break through some tough competition. If not, put them down for another D+/D.
|Film||Studio||Domestic Gross*||Metascore||User Score|
|Fast Five||Universal Pictures||$209,837,675||67||7.4|
|The Adjustment Bureau||Universal Pictures||$62,495,645||60||6.6|
|Tower Heist||Universal Pictures||$78,017,865||59||6.2|
|Cowboys & Aliens **||Universal Pictures||$100,240,551||50||6.1|
|The Thing||Universal Pictures||$16,928,670||49||6.7|
|The Dilemma||Universal Pictures||$48,475,290||46||4.1|
|Johnny English Reborn||Universal Pictures||$8,305,970||46||6.1|
|Larry Crowne||Universal Pictures||$35,608,245||41||5.8|
|The Change-Up||Universal Pictures||$37,081,475||39||5.3|
|Dream House||Universal Pictures||$21,302,340||35||5.5|
|Your Highness||Universal Pictures||$21,596,445||31||4.7|