Metacritic's 2nd Annual Movie Studio Report Card

  • Publish Date: February 3, 2011
  • Comments: ↓ 2 user comments

A look at how the studios fared last year

Now that you have had an opportunity to check out the best and worst films of 2010, it is once again time to look at exactly who was responsible for those films. As we did last year, our Movie Studio Report Card evaluates both the box office performance and film quality performance of the six major studios (and many indie distributors) in an attempt to determine the best and worst studios of 2010.

Which studios collected the most money?

Despite average ticket prices that jumped 39 cents compared to 2009 and a full dollar higher than they were just three years ago (with the larger slate of 3D films being the chief culprit), total domestic box office grosses were down by about $30 million last year, the third such year-over-year decline in the past six years after more than a decade of nothing but growth. Last year also saw the biggest drop in domestic film attendance since 2005. But before you shed a tear for the major studios, take a look at this number: $28.2 billion. That's the total global box office take in 2010, a figure that includes foreign receipts that were nearly $2 billion higher than the year before.

The biggest beneficiary of Hollywood's global expansion? Once again, it's Warner Bros. The studio collected over $2.9 billion at foreign theaters while also placing first among all studios in domestic market share, and the result was worldwide box office record of $4.8 billion in 2010. It was the second year in a row that Warner Bros. set the global record, and thus it is also the second year in a row that the studio has earned our highest performance grade out of the six major studios.

Despite that success, Warner Bros. was actually one of three major distributors that failed to gain domestic market share in 2010. Both Disney and Paramount boasted significant performance increases in the U.S. and abroad last year, while Universal continued to lag far behind its peers. The one studio listed below that merits further explanation is Fox, which we graded at a C despite the studio finishing second in worldwide grosses among the major distributors. As we shall see in a moment, Fox's 2010 films were mostly box office duds or, at best, minor hits. The sole reason for the studio's strong overall total was Avatar, a 2009 release that earned the bulk of its record-shattering revenue during 2010.

2010 Box Office Performance for Six Major Studios
  Disney Fox Paramount Sony Warner Universal
  Image Image Image Image Image Image
Overall Performance Grade B C A- B- A D+
2010 Calendar-Year Grosses (in Millions of US$)
Domestic Total $1,456 $1,482 $1,715 $1,283 $1,924 $882
Change vs. 2009 ↑19% ↑6% ↑16% ↓12% ↓9% ↓1%
Domestic Market Share / Rank 13.8% 4th 14.0% 3rd 16.2% 2nd 12.1% 5th 18.2% 1st 8.3% 6th
Foreign Total $2,300 $2,900 $1,980 $1,400 $2,930 $1,200
Change vs. 2009 ↑35% ↑16% ↑49% ↓37% ↑53% ↑11%
Foreign Market Share / Rank 18.1% 3rd 22.8% 2nd 15.6% 4th 11.0% 5th 23.1% 1st 9.4% 6th
Films Released Between January 1, 2010 and December 31, 2010
Total Releases 14 films 17 films 15 films 18 films 27 films 15 films
Per-Film Average (Domestic, in mil.) $107.3 2nd $56.4 6th $116.1 1st $73.0 3rd $66.2 4th $57.9 5th
Domestic Hits (>$100m in U.S.) 4 2nd 1 6th 8 1st 4 3rd 5 2nd 3 5th
Worldwide Hits (>$250m globally) 5 3rd 2 6th 6 1st 4 3rd 4 3rd 3 5th

Per-Film Average is the average domestic gross for all new films released by the studio in 2010, and includes 2010 box office grosses through January 30, 2010 for those films that are still in theaters. 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. The Performance Grade is an overall grade representing each studio's 2010 box office performance compared to other major studios, as assigned by Metacritic. Sources: Box Office Mojo, The Hollywood Reporter, and Metacritic staff research.

Which studios produced the best films?

Of course, at Metacritic, we're more concerned with quality rather than quantity. And, once again, the six major studios mostly failed to earn high marks for film quality despite those record-setting grosses. Of the major distributors, only Paramount earned above a C when graded against the quality performance of all studios last year, though no major studio managed a "good" average Metascore of 61 or higher. (In 2009, by comparison, none of the major studios graded above a C, so last year actually qualifies as an improvement.)

Fortunately, we still have "independent" studios. Though many, like 2010's highest-scoring studio, Sony Classics, are actually owned by larger film companies, they are still independent enough in their decision-making to turn out consistently good movies. In fact, there were seven studios in 2010 that managed to avoid releasing a poorly-reviewed film, including the four at the top of our quality chart below.

2010 Film Quality Performance for Studios with 7 or More Releases
Studio # Scored
# Great % Good % So-So % Bad Average Metascore Quality Grade
Sony Classics 19 6 79% 21% 0% 71.3    A
The Weinstein Company 7 3 71% 29% 0% 70.9    A
First Run 12 0 83% 17% 0% 68.8    A
Oscilloscope Pictures 8 1 88% 13% 0% 68.0    A
IFC 33 5 67% 21% 12% 65.4    A-
Music Box Films 8 0 63% 38% 0% 64.8    B+
Fox Searchlight 8 1 44% 33% 22% 63.0    B+
Lorber Films 9 1 44% 56% 0% 62.4    B+
Magnolia 22 0 64% 36% 0% 61.8    B
Paramount 14 0 36% 57% 7% 58.6    B-
Summit 7 0 43% 43% 14% 54.0    C
Disney 14 1 36% 43% 21% 53.3    C
Strand 11 0 45% 45% 9% 53.0    C
Roadside Attractions 8 1 38% 38% 25% 52.8    C-
Sony 18 1 28% 44% 28% 49.0    D+
Warner Bros. 23 0 22% 39% 39% 48.7    D+
Fox 16 0 6% 69% 25% 48.3    D+
Lionsgate 14 0 29% 43% 29% 47.6    D
Samuel Goldwyn 7 0 14% 57% 29% 46.0    D
Universal 15 0 27% 33% 40% 45.6    D

Only studios with 7 or more scored American releases during 2010 are included. Seven studios (Anchor Bay Films, Eros, Freestyle Releasing, Indican, Kino, Regent Releasing, and UTV Communications) did have at least 7 releases in the U.S. but are NOT included in the table above because one or more of their films did not obtain the minimum number of reviews from Metacritic's standard critics to enable a Metascore to be calculated. 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 2010 releases. # Great indicates the total number of 2010 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 (0-39). 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.

Details by individual studio

Let's look more closely at how each studio fared during 2010. Over the next pages, we'll take a detailed look at the quality and performance of each major studio (ordered by worldwide grosses), followed by a briefer look at the biggest independent distributors.

We're sorry, but comments are closed for this article.

Comments (2)

  • G Pay  

    Where does Focus Features fit into this?

  • Mitch Tough  

    Tough year for Universal.... again! Who the heck is picking movies over there. There's got to be one dude in a little bungalow - like Tim Robbins' character in "The Player" who greenlights movies. Seriously - an abysmal job. Then again, this year truly sucked for movies on the whole. The King's Speech is the favorite for best picture? Wow. Good little flick - heartwarming, but it didn't stun me with its greatness by any stretch. I put it all on these movie studio execs. Pick better movies to make!

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