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.
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 $1 billion worldwide, matching the record set the year before.
With overall numbers like those, it's not surprising that four of the six major distributors were able to grow their domestic business in 2012 compared to the year before. Leading the way was Sony, the year's overall leader in market share thanks to a 41% increase in domestic grosses and an even bigger increase in foreign markets. At the other end of the spectrum was Paramount, 2011's market share leader. That studio plummeted to last place in 2012 thanks to a disastrous performance in all markets that saw Paramount collecting less than half of its previous year's revenues.
A summary of the financial results for all six majors is displayed below. One thing to remember: high box office grosses (and market share) doesn't necessarily translate to high profitability.
|Overall Performance Grade||C||C||F||A||C–||B|
|2012 Calendar-Year Box Office Grosses (in Millions of US$)|
|Change vs. 2011||↑25%||↑5%||↓53%||↑41%||↑27%||↓9%|
|Domestic Market Share / Rank||14.3%||9.5%||8.5%||16.6%||12.2%||15.4%|
|Change vs. 2011||↓4%||↑26%||↓51%||↑46%||↑38%||↓7%|
|Foreign Market Share / Rank||15.5%||20.1%||11.6%||19.8%||13.3%||19.8%|
|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||$66.5||$62.8||$96.2||$88.8||$100.2|
|Domestic Hits (>$100m in U.S.)||4||4||2||6||6||5|
|Worldwide Hits (>$250m globally)||4||4||1||5||6||4|
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.
|Studio||# Films *||# Great||% Good||% So-So||% Bad||Average Metascore||Quality Grade|
|Music Box Films||9||2||67%||33%||0%||70.4||A|
|Samuel Goldwyn Films||10||0||30%||60%||10%||52.9||C-|
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.