By Tom Brueggemann | Thompson on Hollywood January 15, 2014 at 4:27PM
Once again, in order to gauge which of last year's films were hits or misses or recoupers, domestic gross totals tell far less than the full story, since far more than half of theatrical revenues come from international. Remember, theaters return a bit more half of what they take in at theater wickets on average to distributors. Here's our stab at sorting out 143 films initially released in 2013 that played wide (750 screens or more) for at least one week during their runs.
The titles have been divided into eight categories, from biggest hits to flops. The list in each category is in order of U.S./Canada gross, but in determining placement, the total world-wide gross is a significant factor. Although the normal pattern for studio films these days is to gross more internationally than domestically, the degree of difference varies widely.
Keep in mind the following caveats:
- Listed production budgets are estimates derived from a variety of sources.
- Distributors retain only part of the revenue that comes into theaters. The overall average in the U.S. is somewhere above 50%, but this also varies, with biggest hits often taking in considerably more, while other lesser films sometimes falling below this.
- Marketing expenses are a major factor in calculating ultimate profit, but exact figures are hard to come by. In the U.S., a wide release backed by TV and other media, extended over several weeks, fully paid for by the distributor can reach $50 million or more for a major film that opens during a prime playtime, and costs of at least $25 million at least are normal. The distributor also bears costs for prints and their shipping (less common) and digital delivery.
- Later revenues -- DVD, Blu-ray, cable and TV showings (a much higher share of which goes to the studio than theatrical receipts) and other ancillary items, including licensing, games, merchandising and other side businesses that increasingly are part of the overall plan for a major movie-- also aren't known, but are factored into the financial picture.
- In many cases films are acquired by a distributor after production, or deals are made with a distributor to handle a film's release for a fee. Also, some movies with U.S. distributors were released by multiple parties overseas. Figuring a film's ultimate success comes down to the fortunes of the original producer, irrespective of the film's distributors.
- For late-year releases, current grosses are listed, but we are making projections on their ultimate success. In a handful of cases ("Saving Mr. Banks, "Wolf of Wall Street") for example) they are listed in a category higher than current gross totals suggest. Others ("American Hustle") could end up as smashes rather than hits as listed now. Those films have (****) listed after the titles. Two of these which have not yet gone to wide or full international release are listed under "To be determined."
- NA means not available (in the case of international grosses, usually because a film hasn't opened, but in others because they have not been reported).
- Grosses are through Jan. 12, 2014 for U.S./Canada, generally Jan. 10 for international (which is less exact in reporting).
Distributor analysis for 2013:
Total domestic gross for 2013 (which includes many later 2012 releases that earned large sums in the first part of the year, and not included in the chart above) was up by about 1%. The distributor share chart is specifically for grosses earned during calendar 2013, and for some companies made up a substantial part of it (The Weinstein Co. for example thrived with "Django Unchained" and "Silver Linings Playbook" during the first three months), so there is a degree of disconnect because of the year of initial release. But the full story is not just market share and the bragging rights for being high up or increasing, but how each company accumulated its share. The major company by company summaries below are intended to explain how each really performed beyond just the numbers.
INDIVIDUAL FILM RANKING CHART: HITS AND MISSES OF 2013