April 22, 2008 / 12:12 AM / in 10 years

Summer's big dogs will be chasing Fox at box office

LOS ANGELES (Hollywood Reporter) - With one weekend to go before the start of the lucrative summer box office season, Fox leads the Hollywood studios in market share.

<p>Jet Li and Liu Yifei in a scene from "The Forbidden Kingdom". REUTERS/Lionsgate Films</p>

The studio, known for its fiscal discipline, has sold $473 million worth of tickets so far this year, thanks to such films as “Dr. Seuss’ Horton Hears a Who!” and “Jumper,” giving it a market share of 18.8%, according to Nielsen EDI data.

But No. 2 Warner Bros. -- boasting a 14.7% market share on $370.4 million -- will be gunning to overtake the leader on the strength of a turbocharged summer slate.

By contrast, Fox has charted a more conservative summer course. Its biggest releases include the Eddie Murphy comedy “Dave,” bowing July 11, and “The X-Files: I Want to Believe,” unspooling July 25.

Warners has films on its summer slate that potentially are higher-grossing but also pricier and riskier.

Those include the high-profile film adaptation of “Get Smart” (June 20) and the Batman sequel “The Dark Knight” (July 18). But Warners gutsiest gambit comes May 9 with the release of “Speed Racer,” a PG-rated action film based on a one-time Saturday-morning cartoon. It comes from brothers Larry and Andy Wachowski, the secretive duo behind the “Matrix” films.

Sony ranks No. 3 so far this year, with 11.7% market share on grosses totaling $295.4 million. Its summer sizzle includes Fourth of July weekend opener “Hancock,” starring Will Smith, and the Adam Sandler comedy “You Don’t Mess With the Zohan,” opening June 6.

Of Fox’s six wide releases to date, “Dr. Seuss’ Horton Hears a Who!” has been the most generous contributor to company coffers and represents the industry’s only $100 million grosser this year with $145 million. (This time last year, there were three $100 million films, and one $200 million smash,“300.”)

Fox’s winter hits included the Hayden Christensen fantasy “Jumper” ($79 million), and more recently Fox has seen spring success with the Jodie Foster family adventure “Nim’s Island” ($33 million).

Warners’ 2008 releases have been topped by the $92 million performance to date of the prehistoric adventure film “10,000 BC.” Sony’s successes have included “Vantage Point” ($72 million) and “21” ($70 million).

The rest of the studios face an uphill battle to overtake the top three simply on summer box office. But the pecking order among the top studios is sure to change, with the huge summer boxoffice amounting to more than 40% or more of the 12-month box office each of the past three years, according to EDI data.

Disney currently sits fourth with 10.3% and $258.7 million, ahead of Paramount (9.2%, $232.3 million), Lionsgate (6.8%, $170.1 million) and Universal (6.7%, $168.2 million).

Paramount won the 2007 boxoffice derby with 15.5% market share and $1.49 billion, thanks largely to DreamWorks-branded summer films such as “Shrek the Third” and “Transformers.”

The studio fires the first shot this summer with the May 2 release of “Iron Man,” a comic-book adaptation starring Robert Downey, Jr. It will be back for seconds with “Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull,” which will debut over the Memorial Day frame amid industry expectations that the action sequel could prove the season’s highest-grossing film.

Reuters/Hollywood Reporter

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