Paramount Wins 2011 Studio Battle
For the first time since 2007, Warner Bros. yielded the top spot at the domestic box office to another studio. Paramount Pictures leveraged an impressive line-up to claim first place in 2011 with nearly $2 billion in revenue, or 19.2 percent of total box office. Overall, the Big Six studios (Paramount, Warner Bros., Sony/Columbia, Disney, Universal and 20th Century Fox) accounted for 81.2 percent of box office in 2011, which was in between 2010 (82.6 percent) and 2009 (80.5 percent).

1. Paramount

Total Gross: $1.96 billion

% Change from Last year: +14.1%

Market Share: 19.2%

Movies tracked: 21

Avg. gross: $93 million

Rank change (year-to-year): +1

Analysis: With $1.96 billion in domestic revenue, 2011 was Paramount Pictures highest-grossing year ever. Nearly all of the distributor's 2011 releases should be considered at least mild successes. The biggest movie by far was Transformers: Dark of the Moon at $352.4 million, followed by Marvel flicks Thor ($181 million) and Captain America: The First Avenger ($176.7 million). DreamWorks Animation movies Kung Fu Panda 2 ($165.2 million) and Puss in Boots ($145.3 million) were both solid even though they were way off from predecessors. Mission: Impossible - Ghost Protocol was a late year hit with $122.3 million, and is contributing immensely to Paramount's 2012 box office.

Aside from Ghost Protocol, though most of Paramount's end-of-year releases were comparatively disappointing: Hugo ($48.6 million), The Adventures of Tintin ($43.9 million) and Young Adult ($11.3 million) failed to draw huge audiences.

It's important to note that Paramount is only the distributor for a handful of these movies (specifically the Marvel and DreamWorks Animation ones, along with Hugo), and so they won't take home as much of the $1.96 billion as they would have if they were the financial backers as well.

International: Paramount International set a new record amongst all studios with $3.21 billion in 2011. That's the first time that any studio has crossed the $3 billion mark overseas. Their biggest hit was easily Transformers with over $771 million, followed by Kung Fu Panda 2 at $500 million.

Major 2012 Releases: Titanic (3D) (April 6), Madgascar 3: Europe's Most Wanted (June 8), G.I. Joe: Retaliation (June 29), World War Z (Dec. 21)

2. Warner Bros.

Total Gross: $1.83 billion

% Change from Last year: -5.1%

Market Share: 18%

Movies tracked: 38

Avg. gross: $48 million

Rank change (year-to-year): -1

Analysis: Since becoming the first studio to cross $2 billion at the domestic box office in 2009, Warner Bros. has been down two years in a row. 2011 also marked the first year since 2007 that Warner Bros. did not hold the top spot at the domestic box office. They did have a few big hits, including Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2 (series record of $381 million) and The Hangover Part II (just a bit off from its predecessor with $254.5 million). Horrible Bosses also put up strong numbers for a comedy at $117.5 million.

Unfortunately, they had at least as many major flops. With its massive budget and borderline A-list superhero, Green Lantern should have grossed more than $116.6 million, and Happy Feet Two's $60.7 million was just a fraction of what the original made. Finally, Sucker Punch earned just $36.4 million, making it director Zack Snyder's lowest-grossing movie ever.

International: While an overall total isn't available, Warner Bros. International appears to have had a solid year. Its biggest movie by a long-shot was Deathly Hallows Part 2, which ranks third all-time with over $947 million in overseas revenue. Hangover Part II also improved significantly on its predecessor with $327 million. Again, though, Green Lantern proved to be a major let-down with just $103 million.

Major 2012 Releases: Wrath of the Titans (March 30), Dark Shadows (May 11), The Dark Knight Rises (July 20), The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey (Dec. 14)

3. Sony/Columbia

Total Gross: $1.27 billion

% Change from Last year: -0.7%

Market Share: 12.5%

Movies tracked: 28

Avg. gross: $45 million

Rank change (year-to-year): +2

Analysis: With a balanced and diversified line-up, Sony/Columbia finished about even year-over-year despite being the only major studio without a $150 million movie. Its most successful movies were all comedies: The Smurfs led with $142.6 million and was followed by Just Go With It ($103 million) and Bad Teacher ($100.3 million). Otherwise, their movies were fairly modest, though the only major failures were Priest ($29.1 million), Straw Dogs ($10.3 million) and Anonymous ($4.5 million).

International: Sony had six movies earn more than $100 million overseas in 2011. The Smurfs was a massive international hit with $420 million, and The Adventures of Tintin banked around $178 million in Sony's territories. The Green Hornet and Battle: Los Angeles did solid business with $129 million and $128 million, respectively, and Bad Teacher was a comedy hit with $116 million. And, thanks in part to Jennifer Aniston's presence, Just Go With It set a new record for an Adam Sandler movie with $112 million.

Major 2012 Releases: Ghost Rider Spirit of Vengeance (Feb. 17), MIB 3 (May 25), The Amazing Spider-Man (July 3), Skyfall (Nov. 9)

4. Disney

Total Gross: $1.24 billion

% Change from Last year: -14.8%

Market Share: 12.2%

Movies tracked: 17

Avg. gross: $73 million

Rank change (year-to-year): —

Analysis: Despite the release of two major sequels, Disney plunged 15 percent in 2011. Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides was the studio's top movie with $241.1 million, though it was the first Pirates movie to not pass $300 million. Cars 2 followed with $191.5 million, which was also notably down from its predecessor. Without a doubt, Disney's biggest success story was The Help. The DreamWorks adaptation earned a massive $169.5 million, which makes it the top movie of the year that isn't a franchise (or aspiring franchise) title. Disney also scored with the 3D re-release of The Lion King ($94.2 million) and successfully rebooted The Muppets ($81.8 million).

Disney did have a few disappointments. I Am Number Four only earned $55.1 million, which isn't enough to kick-start a franchise, while Mars Needs Moms was perhaps the biggest bomb of the year with just $21.4 million.

International: Disney's international division had its second-bestt year ever with $2.17 billion. The top contributor was Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides with a series record of over $802 million, and Cars 2 was also strong with $368.4 million.

Major 2012 Releases: John Carter (March 9), The Avengers (May 4), Brave (June 22), Beauty and the Beast (Jan. 13) and Finding Nemo (Sept. 14) 3D re-releases

5. Universal

Total Gross: $1.04 billion

% Change from Last year: +18%

Market Share: 10.2%

Movies tracked: 17

Avg. gross: $61 million

Rank change (year-to-year): +1

Analysis: Universal Pictures had the biggest year-over-year improvement among the Big Six studios, though that's mainly because the studio somehow missed the $1 billion mark in both 2009 and 2010. The second quarter (April-June) was particularly kind to Universal this year. Fast Five stole away with a franchise-best $209.8 million, and Bridesmaids was producer Judd Apatow's highest-grossing movie ever at $169.1 million. Even Hop managed to be a minor hit with $108.1 million.

There were an equal number of poor performances, though. Despite an impressive pedigree and a huge budget, Cowboys & Aliens only managed to inch past $100 million. Universal's comedies also largely missed the mark—The Dilemma ($48.5 million) did poorly for a Vince Vaughn-Kevin James movie, Larry Crowne ($35.6 million) was Tom Hanks's least-attended wide release in decades, and Your Highness ($21.6 million) proved that stoner comedies probably shouldn't be set in the equivalent of Middle Earth.

International: Universal Pictures International fell on the low-end of the major studios with just $1.3 billion, though that was up nine percent from 2010. Fast Five was tops with $419 million, and was followed by Johnny English Reborn ($154 million) and Bridesmaids ($119 million).

Major 2012 Releases: Dr. Seuss' The Lorax (March 2) Battleship (May 18), Snow White and the Huntsman (June 1), The Bourne Legacy (August 3)

6. 20th Century Fox

Total Gross: $978 million

% Change from Last year: -34%

Market Share: 9.6%

Movies tracked: 19

Avg. gross: $51 million

Rank change (year-to-year): -3

Analysis: Coming off the year of Avatar, it was inevitable that 2011 was going to be a down year for 20th Century Fox. It wound up in worse shape than expected, though, as it came in last place among the Big Six studios with its lowest-grossing year since 2004.

The studio did nicely reboot two franchises with Rise of the Planet of the Apes ($176.7 million) and X-Men: First Class ($146.4 million), and Rio was a solid hit at $143.6 million. Alvin and the Chipmunks: Chipwrecked was okay, though its $88.2 million through the end of the year was way off from the prior Alvin movies.

Between Apes and Alvin, though, five nationwide releases failed to find any significant audience. It was so bad that In Time, the Justin Timberlake-Amanda Seyfried sci-fi flick, was actually their highest-grossing movie during that period with a middling $37 million.

International: Fox's releases seem geared more towards a foreign audience as of late. Rio scored with $341 million, while Rise of the Planet of the Apes ($304 million) and X-Men: First Class ($207 million) improved on their predecessors. Even Mr. Popper's Penguins ($119 million) and In Time ($103 million) managed to be strong international performers.

Major 2012 Releases: Prometheus (June 8), Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter (June 22), Ice Age: Continental Drift (July 13), Taken 2 (Oct. 5)

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Related Charts

• Studios: 2011 Market Share

• Studios: 2010 vs. 2011

• 2011 Grosses (2011-only releases)

• Year-to-Year Comparison