Oprah Winfrey in "Lee Daniels' The Butler"
Oprah Winfrey in "Lee Daniels' The Butler"

At the other extreme, Paramount didn't make much noise much of the year, with only nine releases (one, "Nebraska" in limited release thus far), ending up with 9% of total business. But they are the envy of the business -- all eight of the wide pictures will make a profit (including pricey "Star Trek Into Darkness" and "World War Z," the latter scoring particularly well overseas), with three others (including "Wolf of Wall Street") likely to end up over $100 million domestic. And 4 of their 8 cost $50 million or less, thus increasing their chances of profit. Eight out of eight breaking even or better? Few can make that claim. Near year's end, Sony, usually at the high end of output, announced they were retrenching and following Paramount's lead on cutting back on the number of productions.

6. African-Americans and Hispanics are Growing Markets 

Denzel Washington and Will Smith have been among the top stars for decades now, but almost always with white costars. 2012 saw only four films with both an African-American director and main cast gross over $15 million, three of them comedies ("Think Like a Man" lead with $91 million; the drama "Red Tails" grossed far less than its $80 million cost). In 2013, six managed the feat, led by "Lee Daniels' The Butler" reaching $116 million. Two other dramas, Tyler Perry's production of "Temptation" and the critically-acclaimed "12 Years a Slave" grossed well, along with comedies "The Best Man Holiday," two Tyler Perry Madea films and a Kevin Hart concert film, which at a profitable $32 million is the only one not to pass $50 million ("12 Years" has its Oscar boost to come). With the lack of much international appeal, studios tend to shy away from what they consider a risky niche (other than Lionsgate, which has Perry as well as a well-developed marketing team to maximize results). This year hopefully encourages more development.

The Latino market has never targeted as many films as those for the African-American market, but still shows signs of attracting increased attention. Mexican director Alfonso Cuaron directed the most acclaimed of the year's biggest hits ("Gravity"), but "Instructions Not Included," a small Mexican family comedy starring Eugenio Derbez, someone unknown beyond the Latino community, managed to gross $45 million in Spanish without ever reaching more than 1,000 theaters. With the Latino audience estimated to be around 25% of total ticket buyers (and even higher among frequent ones), if the studios ever manage to place a few more actors in prime roles and develop some Latino-themed stories, the growth here could be impressive.

7. Animation Keeps Growing 

In 2012, the animation foreign market was way ahead of the U.S., with only one ("Brave") in the domestic top 10 at #8, while two others were in the top seven internationally. Things radically changed in 2013. Three of the top six domestic titles were animated. This increase more any other is responsible for the uptick in overall gross. All three grossed over $250 million domestic, more than "Brave," with "Despicable Me 2," "Monsters University" and "Frozen" (which might yet become the biggest of them all). These are not inexpensive films usually -- Dreamworks Animation will at best make a small profit on "Turbo" -- but the rewards can come from unexpected places. Disney had planned "Cars" spin-off "Planes" as a direct-to-DVD release, but it ended up grossing $220 million worldwide; the widely scorned "Smurfs 2" did huge foreign business, getting to $345 million. If anything is certain, animation is going to come to dominate even more.

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