Metacritic's 4th Annual Movie Studio Report Card

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  • Publish Date: February 12, 2013

Ranking the performance of film studios in 2012

We've been spending a lot of time over the past month looking back at the year that was 2012 (including with our report on last year's best and worst movies), and we've finally reached the end of our retrospectives with our annual evaluation of movie studio performance. For the fourth straight year, we have examined both the box office performance and overall film quality of the six major studios (and many indie distributors) in an attempt to determine the best and worst studios of the past year.

This year's rankings begin below. Our previous Movie Studio Report Cards are available here: 2011 | 2010 | 2009

Which studios collected the most money?

Collectively, it was a good 12 months for the movie industry after a couple of down years in which revenues and attendance were in decline. Total domestic box office grosses were up over 6% in 2012 (to a record $10.83 billion), while the number of tickets sold also increased by a similar percentage after falling to a 16-year low the year before. Last year actually saw the largest year-over-year percentage increase in theater attendance since 1998, though total tickets sold fell well short of the all-time record set in 2002.

Globally, while the combined grosses of the six major studios fell slightly compared to 2011's all-time record high, the results were still strong, with four of the studios surpassing the $2 billion mark. And three separate 2012 movies each collected over $1 billion worldwide, matching the record set the year before.

With overall numbers like those, it's not surprising that four of the six major distributors were able to grow their domestic business in 2012 compared to the year before. Leading the way was Sony, the year's overall leader in market share thanks to a 41% increase in domestic grosses and an even bigger increase in foreign markets. At the other end of the spectrum was Paramount, 2011's market share leader. That studio plummeted to last place in 2012 thanks to a disastrous performance in all markets that saw Paramount collecting less than half of its previous year's revenues.

A summary of the financial results for all six majors is displayed below. One thing to remember: high box office grosses (and market share) doesn't necessarily translate to high profitability.

2012 Box Office Performance for Six Major Studios
  Disney Fox Paramount Sony Universal Warner
  Image Image Image Image Image Image
Overall Performance Grade C C F A C– B
2012 Calendar-Year Box Office Grosses (in Millions of US$)
Domestic Total $1,551 $1,025 $914 $1,792 $1,324 $1,665
Change vs. 2011 ↑25% ↑5% ↓53% ↑41% ↑27% ↓9%
Domestic Market Share / Rank 14.3% 3rd 9.5% 5th 8.5% 6th 16.6% 1st 12.2% 4th 15.4% 2nd
Foreign Total $2,089 $2,714 $1,565 $2,672 $1,792 $2,670
Change vs. 2011 ↓4% ↑26% ↓51% ↑46% ↑38% ↓7%
Foreign Market Share / Rank 15.5% 4th 20.1% 1st 11.6% 6th 19.8% 2nd 13.3% 5th 19.8% 3rd
Films Released Between January 1, 2012 and December 31, 2012
Total Wide Releases 13 films 15 films 13 films 19 films 16 films 16 films
Per-Film Average (Domestic, in mil.) $119.8 1st $66.5 5th $62.8 6th $96.2 3rd $88.8 4th $100.2 2nd
Domestic Hits (>$100m in U.S.) 4 4th 4 4th 2 6th 6 1st 6 1st 5 3rd
Worldwide Hits (>$250m globally) 4 3rd 4 3rd 1 6th 5 2nd 6 1st 4 3rd

The Performance Grade is an overall grade representing each studio's 2012 box office performance compared to other major studios, as assigned by Metacritic. Foreign Total shows the preliminary non-U.S. box office grosses for 2012 reported by each studio in late December. The Foreign Market Share percentages include only the big six major studios, while the Domestic Market Share percentages include all domestic box office figures, including releases by independent studios. Per-Film Average is the average domestic gross for all new films released by the studio in 2012, and includes additional 2013 domestic box office grosses through February 6, 2013 for those films that are still in theaters.
Sources: Box Office Mojo, Screen Daily, and Metacritic staff research.

Which studios produced the best films?

For just the second time since we started grading the studios in these annual report cards, one of the six majors finished the year with an average Metascore of 61 or higher (the cutoff we use to indicate generally positive reviews from critics). In 2011, that studio was Paramount; last year, it was Disney. Paramount, meanwhile, mirrored its misfortunes at the box office with a similar decline in film quality.

In fact, Paramount was the only one of the six major studios to see a drop in average Metascore for its 2012 releases compared to films released the previous year. That said, while the other five majors did increase their averages, the resulting numbers were still low enough that all but Disney remained in the C or D range. (We use those letter grades, by the way, as a indicator to compare the overall quality of each studio's yearly releases to that of their peers.)

Of the six distributors to earn an A– grade or higher, all six were smaller "indie" studios. The latter group was led by Cinema Guild, whose average Metascore of 73.5 was the highest we've calculated in the four years we've been publishing these report cards. Cinema Guild was also one of 10 studios (with at least seven scored releases last year) to avoid releasing a single negatively reviewed film in 2012.

Results for all studios are below, with the six majors highlighted in bold.

2012 Film Quality Assessment for Studios with 7 or More Scored Releases
Studio # Films * # Great % Good % So-So % Bad Average Metascore Quality Grade
Cinema Guild 11 2 82% 18% 0% 73.5    A
Music Box Films 9 2 67% 33% 0% 70.4    A
SPC 17 3 71% 29% 0% 70.1    A
Adopt Films 7 2 71% 29% 0% 67.2    A-
Fox Searchlight 7 1 71% 29% 0% 66.4    A-
Kino Lorber 18 0 72% 28% 0% 66.2    A-
Disney 10 1 60% 40% 0% 65.8    B+
Film Movement 7 0 71% 29% 0% 64.4    B+
Strand 16 1 81% 13% 6% 63.4    B
Oscilloscope Pictures 9 1 67% 22% 11% 62.3    B
Focus Features 10 1 40% 60% 0% 61.6    B-
Weinstein 20 3 50% 40% 10% 59.3    B-
Magnolia 28 1 50% 46% 4% 59.0    C+
First Run 17 0 47% 47% 6% 58.7    C+
Tribeca 14 1 50% 36% 14% 58.4    C+
China Lion 7 1 57% 29% 14% 58.1    C+
IFC 44 4 45% 32% 23% 57.4    C+
Well Go 9 0 33% 56% 11% 56.7    C
Sony 19 3 42% 37% 21% 56.6    C
Universal 16 0 38% 63% 0% 55.7    C
Samuel Goldwyn Films 10 0 30% 60% 10% 52.9    C-
Warner Bros. 17 1 18% 59% 24% 50.9    D+
Fox 14 0 21% 57% 21% 49.5    D+
Lionsgate 13 0 15% 77% 8% 48.8    D
Paramount 12 0 8% 67% 25% 48.4    D
Summit Entertainment 9 0 22% 44% 33% 46.3    D-
Roadside Attractions 9 0 33% 33% 33% 45.5    D-
Millennium Entertainment 9 0 22% 44% 33% 44.4    D-
Anchor Bay 10 0 10% 40% 50% 40.9    F

* Films with fewer than four reviews (the minimum required to calculate a Metascore) are excluded.
Rereleases of older films are not included in the quality measures. Only studios with 7 or more scored American releases during 2012 are included. A few additional distributors did release at least 7 films in the U.S. last year but are not listed because some or all of their films do not have Metascores. The Metascore is a weighted average of scores from top professional critics, on a scale from 0 (bad) to 100 (good). The Average Metascore is a simple mean of all Metascores for the studio's 2012 releases. # Great indicates the total number of 2012 films with Metascores of 81 or higher. % Good represents positively-reviewed films (Metascore of 61 or higher). % So-So represents films receiving mixed or average reviews (40-60). % Bad represents negatively-reviewed films (39 or lower). Note that percentages may not add up to 100% due to rounding. The Quality Grade is an overall quality assessment assigned by Metacritic to represent the studio's output for the year in comparison to its peers. All scores are from February 4, 2013.

Details by individual studio

Turn the page for a closer look at each individual studio's performance in 2012. We'll start with each of the six major studios (in order by global market share), followed by a briefer look at the biggest independent distributors.

Comments (1)

  • adolfGarlic  

    Clickable links to show the films that each studio made (and which are described on Metacritic) please! (for the film quality assessment chart)

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