Metacritic's 3rd Annual Movie Studio Report Card

  • Comments: ↓ 3 user comments
  • Publish Date: February 6, 2012

A look at how the studios fared last year

Now that you have had time to digest our list of the best and worst films of 2011, it is once again time to look at the companies responsible for those films. Much like last year and the year before, this year's Movie Studio Report Card evaluates 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 2011.

Which studios collected the most money?

While Paramount had an incredible year (more on that in a moment), 2011 was far less rosy for the other major studios, or the industry as a whole. Total domestic box office receipts fell nearly 4% compared to 2010, despite ever-increasing ticket prices. If that sounds familiar, it's because we wrote basically the same thing last year, though this year's percentage decline was even higher. An even more telling indicator, however, is actual ticket sales, and those numbers are even more dire: U.S. theatrical attendance fell to levels not seen since 1995.

Helping to compensate for fading U.S. ticket sales, once again, were foreign markets. The six major studios collected approximately $13.6 billion overseas last year, which represents an all-time record and a 7% gain over the figures for 2010. While that growth rate is actually slowing a bit, theatrical attendance in other countries appears to be stable, if not growing. Only three of the six studios were able to capitalize on growing foreign appetites for American films, however, with Paramount leading the pack with a 60% increase in foreign receipts compared to the previous year. Paramount is also one of just two major distributors to grow its domestic business in 2011, with the result being a first-place finish in U.S. and worldwide market share, taking the title away from previous leader Warner Bros.

2011 Box Office Performance for Six Major Studios
  Disney Fox Paramount Sony Warner Universal
  Image Image Image Image Image Image
Overall Performance Grade C D+ A D+ B D
2011 Calendar-Year Box Office Grosses (in Millions of US$)
Domestic Total $1,241 $978 $1,957 $1,274 $1,826 $1,041
Change vs. 2010 ↓15% ↓34% ↑14% ↓1% ↓5% ↑18%
Domestic Market Share / Rank 12.2% 4th 9.6% 6th 19.2% 1st 12.5% 3rd 17.9% 2nd 10.2% 5th
Foreign Total $2,170 $2,150 $3,210 $1,830 $2,860 $1,300
Change vs. 2010 ↓6% ↓26% ↑60% ↑31% ↓2% ↑9%
Foreign Market Share / Rank 16.1% 3rd 15.9% 4th 23.7% 1st 13.5% 5th 21.2% 2nd 9.6% 6th
Films Released Between January 1, 2011 and December 31, 2011
Total Wide Releases 14 films 15 films 15 films 21 films 21 films 15 films
Per-Film Average (Domestic, in mil.) $85.1 3rd $67.1 4th $128.4 1st $60.4 6th $86.9 2nd $65.2 5th
Domestic Hits (>$100m in U.S.) 3 5th 4 3rd 9 1st 3 5th 5 2nd 4 3rd
Worldwide Hits (>$250m globally) 3 3rd 4 2nd 7 1st 2 5th 3 3rd 2 5th

The Performance Grade is an overall grade representing each studio's 2011 box office performance compared to other major studios, as assigned by Metacritic. Foreign Total shows the preliminary non-U.S. box office grosses for 2011 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 2011, and includes additional 2012 domestic box office grosses through January 31, 2012 for those films that are still in theaters.
Sources: Box Office Mojo, The Hollywood Reporter, and Metacritic staff research.

Which studios produced the best films?

For the first time in the three years we have been ranking studios, one of the six majors has finished the year with a "good" average Metascore of 61 or higher. That honor goes to Paramount—yes, the very same Paramount that also out-performed all other studios at the box office—which became the first major studio to receive a quality grade as high as B+ in our annual evaluations. (Those letter grades, by the way, compare the overall quality of each studio's output last year against that of their peers.) Of course, the other five majors can be found in a more typical position: lower down on the list, with two in the C range and the other three receiving a D+ or worse. However, only one of those majors—Sony/Columbia—had a lower average Metascore in 2011 than in 2010. Three of the others actually improved their averages this year, while another (Fox) stayed constant.

If it is consistently good films you seek, look to the independents. Six of these smaller distributors earned quality grades of A- or better this year, up from five last year and just two the year before. Leading the pack was Sony Pictures Classics, which received positive reviews for an astounding 16 out of 17 of its releases last year, resulting in an average Metascore of 72.9, the highest mark in the three years we have been ranking studios. Sony's autonomous specialty films division was also one of eight distributors (with at least seven releases) to avoid releasing a negatively reviewed film in all of 2011.

2011 Film Quality Assessment for Studios with 7 or More Releases
Studio # Films * # Great % Good % So-So % Bad Average Metascore Quality Grade
Sony Pictures Classics 17 5 94% 6% 0% 72.9 A
Kino Lorber 18 3 83% 17% 0% 70.5 A
Focus Features 8 2 75% 25% 0% 69.4 A
Oscilloscope 7 1 71% 29% 0% 68.0 A–
Strand 13 2 77% 23% 0% 67.4 A–
Fox Searchlight 10 2 70% 20% 10% 66.5 A–
Paramount 15 1 60% 40% 0% 64.0 B+
First Run Features 15 0 67% 33% 0% 62.9 B
Music Box Films 12 1 50% 50% 0% 60.9 B
Magnolia 24 2 50% 42% 8% 60.5 B–
Roadside Attractions 11 2 55% 27% 18% 60.4 B–
Variance Films 14 0 50% 43% 7% 59.0 B–
IFC 46 5 54% 28% 17% 58.1 C+
Disney 13 0 46% 46% 8% 57.9 C+
The Weinstein Co. 16 1 31% 31% 38% 52.7 C
Summit 8 0 38% 38% 25% 51.3 C–
Warner Bros. 22 1 27% 41% 32% 50.2 C–
Universal 15 0 13% 67% 20% 49.3 D+
Tribeca Film 11 0 27% 45% 27% 48.8 D+
Fox 16 0 19% 56% 25% 48.3 D
Lionsgate 9 0 22% 44% 33% 47.8 D
Sony 23 1 26% 39% 35% 47.1 D
Samuel Goldwyn 9 0 11% 56% 33% 46.1 D–
ARC Entertainment 9 0 22% 33% 44% 44.1 D–
Anchor Bay 13 0 8% 54% 38% 43.4 D–
Paladin 10 0 10% 20% 70% 39.7 F
Relativity 8 0 0% 50% 50% 38.2 F

* Films with fewer than four reviews (the minimum required to calculate a Metascore) are excluded.
Rereleases (such as Disney's The Lion King) are not included in the quality measures. Only studios with 7 or more scored American releases during 2011 are included. A few studios did release at least 7 film sin 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 2011 releases. # Great indicates the total number of 2011 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 January 31, 2012.

Details by individual studio

Turn the page for a closer look at each studio's performance during 2011. We'll start with each of the six major studios (in order by domestic market share), followed by a briefer look at the biggest independent distributors.

Comments (3)

  • LamontRaymond  

    Sony Pictures Classics was the gold standard in 2011. And this stuff doesn't happen by accident. The Tim Robbins-style green-lighter over there is just getting it done. Congrats! Great sense of what's good AND what can make you money.

  • buellerbueller  

    Lionsgate has a D, film quality wise. They also made "The Artist". lol

  • TitaniumDragon  

    I think the most troubling thing about this is the fact that the highest scoring films of 2012 were limited release movies, and that this trend has been ongoing. The question I think we need to ask, when we see this trend year after year, is whether the critics are actually rating movies properly, and whether the studios are distributing movies properly. If the best movies aren't seeing wide release, the question we must ask ourselves is whether the best movies are actually the best movies.

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