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Which Studio Will Be First to $1 Billion This Year?

by Ray Subers
Thanks to Captain America: The Winter Soldier, Disney is currently the highest-grossing studio in 2014.
 

 
May 13, 2014

Over the weekend, Sony became the third studio to reach $500 million at the domestic box office in 2014. The other two are Disney—the current leader with $541 million—and Warner Bros.

Before the end of the Summer, a few of the six big studios will reach $1 billion. The question is, which one will get there first?

Dating back to 2007, at least one studio reached $1 billion by mid-July. For the past two years, it was Disney; for the five years prior to that, it was Paramount.

Of course, getting there first doesn't guarantee a first place finish for the full year. Over the past decade, the first to $1 billion and the year-end leader have only lined up three times: Paramount in 2011, Paramount in 2007, and Sony in 2004.

For each of the six major studios, we've outlined year-to-date box office (in descending order), looked ahead at their upcoming releases, and assigned odds of them reaching $1 billion first.

Disney

Year-to-Date:
$541 million
Biggest Hits: Captain America: The Winter Soldier ($245 million), Frozen ($137.4 million).
Upcoming Releases: Million Dollar Arm (May 16), Maleficent (May 30), Planes: Fire and Rescue (July 18), Guardians of the Galaxy (Aug. 1)

Analysis: So far this year, Disney is the highest-grossing studio with $541 million. That's thanks in large part to Captain America, which accounts for over 45 percent of that revenue.

Disney's Summer schedule is lighter than usual, though. Million Dollar Arm will do modest business—maybe $50 million or so. Maleficent is the type of big-budget fantasy that can deliver huge numbers, though the marketing hasn't really connected. A gross on par with Snow White and the Huntsman ($155.3 million) is probably the best-case scenario. In July, Planes: Fire and Rescue could take advantage of a dearth of family fare and earn close to $100 million.

If all of that works out, it would put Disney around $850 million without Guardians of the Galaxy, which opens on August 1. That should do well enough to push the studio over the $1 billion mark by the end of August. Odds: 15%

Sony

Year-to-Date:
$524 million
Biggest Hits: The Amazing Spider-Man 2 ($145.2 million), American Hustle ($82.6 million), The Monuments Men ($78 million), Heaven is for Real ($75.7 million).
Upcoming Releases: 22 Jump Street (June 13), Think Like a Man Too (June 20), Deliver Us From Evil (July 25), Sex Tape (July 25)

Analysis: Sony has had a good year so far, though that's due mostly to having eight nationwide releases (more than any other studio). Their top title, The Amazing Spider-Man 2, is poised to be the lowest-grossing Spider-Man yet, though it is going to earn at least another $60 million before the end of its run. Faith-based hit Heaven is for Real could also add another $30 million or so.

Looking ahead, comedy sequels 22 Jump Street and Think Like a Man Too should earn at least $200 million (their predecessors add up to $230 million). With a very memorable trailer, Deliver Us From Evil could surprise in early July. Cameron Diaz and Jason Segel are an appealing pair, though Sex Tape is a big question mark right now. If one or more of these titles overperforms, Sony should be at $1 billion by the end of Summer. Odds: 10%

Warner Bros.

Year-to-Date:
$516 million
Biggest Hits: The LEGO Movie ($253.7 million), 300: Rise of An Empire ($106.2 million).
Upcoming Releases: Godzilla (May 16), Blended (May 23), Edge of Tomorrow (June 6), Jersey Boys (June 20), Tammy (July 2), Jupiter Ascending (July 18)

Analysis: 2014 has been the year of The LEGO Movie for Warner Bros.—the animated hit accounts for nearly half of its earnings so far. 300: Rise of an Empire also did fine business, though it's wrapping up with around half as much as its predecessor. WB also has two major flops in Transcendence and Winter's Tale.

Their Summer is packed with new releases—between now and the end of July, they've got six titles coming out. Godzilla is the safest bet, and all signs point to it delivering around $200 million. The rest of the lineup is tougher to predict.

Blended may be one of those rare Adam Sandler movies to fall short of $100 million; still, it should at least come close to Jack & Jill ($74.2 million). The last original Tom Cruise movie to earn over $100 million was 2005's War of the Worlds, and Edge of Tomorrow probably won't buck that trend. It's hard to imagine Jersey Boys breaking out, and Tammy lacks the strong hook of recent Melissa McCarthy's 2013 hits Identity Thief and The Heat. Jupiter Ascending is a wild card, though as of now it looks more like John Carter ($73.1 million) than The Matrix ($171.5 million).

Still, if all of those perform in line with modest expectations, Warner Bros. should be passing $1 billion by the end of July. Odds: 25%

Universal

Year-to-Date:
$438 million
Biggest Hits: Ride Along ($134.2 million), Lone Survivor ($124.9 million), Non-Stop ($91.1 million)
Upcoming Releases: A Million Ways to Die in the West (May 30th), The Purge: Anarchy (July 18), Get On Up (August 1)

Analysis: Universal has had a very good year at the domestic box office. Including recent hit Neighbors, the studio has had four original, modestly-budgeted movies open in first place. By the end of May, Universal should be near $550 million.

Unfortunately, the remainder of their Summer is weak; Universal was supposed to have Fast & Furious 7 in July, but that had to be moved to next April after star Paul Walker's unexpected passing. A Million Ways to Die in the West could be a hit, but it won't come close to Ted levels. The Purge: Anarchy may wind up on par with the first Purge ($64.5 million), though that's far from a guarantee. The studio has a handful of movies opening in August—Get on Up looks particularly strong—though it's unlikely it gets anywhere near $1 billion before the end of September. Odds: 2%

Fox

Year-to-Date:
$401 million
Biggest Hits: Rio 2 ($113.1 million), Mr. Peabody & Sherman ($108.9 million), The Other Woman ($62.1 million), Son of God ($59.7 million)
Upcoming Releases: X-Men: Days of Future Past (May 23), The Fault in our Stars (June 6), How to Train Your Dragon 2 (June 13), Dawn of the Planet of the Apes (July 11)

Analysis: 20th Century Fox has had a fine year so far: Rio 2 and Mr. Peabody & Sherman both wound up with over $100 million, while The Other Woman is exceeding most expectations.

More importantly, the studio has the strongest Summer 2014 lineup. With X-Men: Days of Future Past, The Fault in our Stars and How to Train Your Dragon 2, they could dominate every weekend between Memorial Day and the end of June. By early July, those three titles should add up to at least $500 million—around $450 million split between X-Men and Dragon, plus $50 million for Fault—which would put Fox close to $1 billion. Add in Dawn of the Planet of the Apes, and Fox should have no problem reaching that mark as early as mid-July. Odds: 45%

Paramount

Year-to-Date:
$321 million
Biggest Hits: Noah ($99.9 million), The Wolf of Wall Street ($75.5 million)
Upcoming Releases: Transformers: Age of Extinction (June 27), Hercules (July 25), Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (August 8)

Analysis:
Paramount has had a slow year so far. Noah's $100 million is a bit below expectations, while Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit and Paranormal Activity: The Marked Ones underperformed in January.

Paramount doesn't enter the Summer fray until late June, though it goes without saying that Transformers: Age of Extinction is going to be huge. Their other releases, Hercules and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, are harder to predict. Still, assuming Transformers reaches $300 million and the other two combine for $250 million—both optimistic predictions—Paramount will still be short of $1 billion going in to the Fall. Odds: 3%

Discuss this story with fellow Box Office Mojo fans on Facebook. On Twitter, follow us at @boxofficemojo, and follow author Ray Subers at @raysubers.

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'Gravity' Dominates Disappointing October
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2014 Grosses - By Studio
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