July 9, 2010 / 4:11 AM / 7 years ago

Winners and losers emerge at summer box office midpoint

LOS ANGELES (Hollywood Reporter) - Much as the baseball world takes stock of who's hot and who's not with its midseason All-Star game, Hollywood has a good sense of summer winners and losers once Independence Day is torn from the movie release calendar.

Warner Bros. and Fox have sipped from a glass half empty so far during the hottest box office season of the year, while Paramount has tied one on from a cup that runneth over. Paramount tops seasonal rankings by a comfortable margin, thanks to its distribution of a lucrative DreamWorks Animation tentpole as well as its own summer-launching of "Iron Man 2," a $309 million domestic grosser.

Paramount had grossed $634.5 million between May 7 and July 5, good for a 29% market share, followed by Disney ($402.8 million, 18%), Sony ($248.5 million, 11%), Summit Entertainment ($240.7 million, 11%), Fox ($202.6 million, 9%), Universal ($170.5 million, 8%) and Warner Bros. ($162 million, 7%).

Rentrak data show Fox still topping year-to-date rankings thanks to the leggy run of December opener "Avatar," but that figure includes $82 million from its Fox Searchlight unit. On that basis, Fox has collected $1.11 billion this year for a 20% share, while Paramount has taken in $1.08 billion (19%).

Fox hopes this weekend's wide opener "Predators" marks a turnaround in its disappointing summer fortunes. The Adrien Brody starrer is a followup to two previous horror thrillers -- 1987's "Predator" and 1990's "Predator 2."

The studio's seasonal disappointments have included soft openings for a pair of actioners -- "The A-Team" and "Knight and Day" -- whose current totals of $70.5 million and $49.5 million, respectively, have done little to turn executive frowns upside down.

Fingers are also crossed on the Fox lot for the family comedy "Ramona and Beezus," which opens July 23, and the comedy spoof "Vampires Suck," set for wide release on August 20.

Warners -- which topped summer and annual b.o. rankings last year -- also will aim for season-salvaging success from pics still to hit theaters. Two looming releases are particularly key: Christopher Nolan's Leonardo DiCaprio starrer "Inception" (July 16) and 3D family sequel "Cats & Dogs: Revenge of Kitty Galore" (July 30).

Warners is especially hopeful about "Inception," and the early reviews have been auspicious. But the dreams-based thriller is a more cerebral affair than the typical summer popcorn picture, so it will be interesting to see whether a more challenging release can muster impressive support.

Disney executives must be congratulating themselves for buying Pixar back in 2006. The animation powerhouse's "Toy Story 3" -- the 15-year-old franchise's first 3D installment -- bowed June 18 en route to a $301.9 million haul through last weekend.

But another one of the Mouse House's long-standing partners has been swinging and missing of late. Normally heavy-hitting producer Jerry Bruckheimer whiffed with pricey adventure fantasy "Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time" -- a wannabe franchise-starter that's fetched just $88.3 million to date -- and his upcoming Nicolas Cage starrer "The Sorcerer's Apprentice" is tracking softly enough for concern, considering its hefty production costs.

Sony has sizzled with a pair of solid summer hits. "The Karate Kid," which opened June 11, kicked up $154.6 million through last weekend, and ensemble comedy "Grown Ups," unspooled just two weeks later, quickly legging it to $84.6 million through its first 11 days. The Angelina Jolie starrer "Salt" -- a spy thriller set to unspool on July 23 -- numbers among Sony's big late-summer titles.

Summit Entertainment muscled its way into the mix of seasonal rankings with last week's big opening for vampire romance "The Twilight saga: Eclipse."

Universal enjoyed some modest success with "Get Him to the Greek," a $58 million domestic performer to date. The studio's Russell Crowe starrer "Robin Hood" disappointed in topping out at $104 million domestically, though it did figure among a handful of industry releases to mark outsize foreign bows this summer. "Robin Hood" has grossed $303 million so far on a worldwide basis.

Intriguingly, Universal's late-season fortunes rest on a couple of releases well outside of its comfort zone in the studio's first animated feature for some time: the 3D cartoon "Despicable Me," which hits theaters on Friday and the August 13 opener "Scott Pilgrim vs. the World," a comics-based action fantasy.

Meantime, two pictures have breached the $300 million threshold nine weeks into the industry's 18-week summer -- "Iron Man 2" and "Toy Story 3" -- while DreamWorks Animation's 3D feature "Shrek Forever After" was the only $200 million-plus performer with $232.7 million through July 5.

Those three top-grossing summer releases all were sequels, though the "Shrek" four-quel has been the least lucrative of that franchise's last three releases. Combined with a sub-$100 million domestic run by "Sex and the City 2," there was some short-lived fear of a sequel-itis contagion until mighty "Toy Story 3" showed that familiarity still can breed moviegoer contentedness.

But Hollywood hasn't shrugged off the effects of its early season box office malaise completely. On an industrywide basis, grosses rung up since May 7 totaled $2.18 billion through July 5, or almost 9% less than during a similar portion of last summer. Year to date, domestic sales are up 4% to $5.66 billion through July 5, but industry estimates put ticket-price inflation at about 6% since a year ago. So accounting for that, it's clear Hollywood has to rally significantly -- and soon -- if it's to post a yearly uptick in admissions.

Internationally, the summer box office has been robust, despite World Cup distractions and a stronger dollar. Year to date, foreign sales are up an astounding 43% -- at $6.38 billion -- as emerging markets such as Russia and China continue to expand the overseas marketplace.

Fox was the top-grossing international distributor through June with $2 billion in first-half grosses, followed by Disney ($1.33 billion) and Warner Bros. ($1.15 billion).

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