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CinemaCon: Fithian Looks Back at 2012, Universal New Model Studio

Box Office
by Anne Thompson
April 17, 2013 11:12 AM
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'Pitch Perfect'

Every year CinemaCon rolls out the $100 Million Reel; it's a tradition to remind the exhibitors of the movies that scored in their theaters. "Something for everyone" is the theme that rang out Tuesday. The 2012 boom, said NATO chief John Fithian and others, was about delivering a diversity of high quality product. 

Disney, for one, had four films on the $100-million list: animated Oscar-winner "Brave," "Wreck-It-Ralph," Spielberg's "Lincoln," and Marvel's top-ranked blockbuster of the year, MTV Movie Winner "The Avengers." It was the third highest performer ever globally and domestically, and the fourth-biggest overseas, opening at a record $207 million, and the fastest film to reach $300 million in nine days.

'The Fast and the Furious 6'

Last year three movies, "The Avengers," "The Dark Knight Rises" and "The Hunger Games," broke the $400-million barrier domestically. 2012 marked the all time domestic record, $10.8 billion, over the previous high of $10.6 in 2009, an increase in ticket sales. And 1.36 billion marked a jump of 6% over the previous year, the biggest admissions bump in decade. North America sliced the global pie by a third, as the worldwide total was $34.7 billion.

Fithian made it clear that among the $100 million gang, there was a wide range, with the PG 13 rating faring best, followed by PG. Sounding a familiar gong at CInemaCon, he asked the studios "to make more family friendly fare." Only two of the $100 million films were R-rated. "Give more choices to all ages," he said.

The first quarter was down by 12%, he said, because the studios did not offer "enough choices. Product selection was not good." In 2012 there were more G, PG and PG-13, he said. "Our numbers suffered because there were too many R movies. 2012 was spread over the calendar."

He's feeling more confident about the rest of the year. He cited Universal as a studio model, releasing "Safe House" in February, "Lorax" in March, and "Bourne Legacy" in August. "Off months bring huge returns," he said. "Distribution in the off months produced higher returns than the holiday period." 

He also begged for more films aimed at women and Hispanics, a growing frequent moviegoing segment, using as examples the "Twilight" series, "Brave" and "Hunger Games." 

Another trend is the growing number of dinner theaters. He got applause from the theater owners for cheering the winning lawsuit against Mayor Bloomberg in New York. Let them drink large-size Coke!

Universal's Adam Fogelson came on next to introduce the 2013 slate, but first he wanted to cheer about how well Universal did in 2012. It was their biggest year domestically, internationally and overall. He pointed out that they didn't do this with one towering blockbuster --in fact they survived a huge loss on "Battleship," but still believe in Peter Berg, whose next "Lone Survivor," is coming up.

Six films made the $100 million club, and 8 past $200 million globally. They did this with a diversity of films turning into events, and a range of stories to tell: Illumination's "Lorax" was the biggest animated opening since 2010,  "Ted" was the largest R-rated comedy globally, and Wahlberg's biggest hit. They managed to reboot the "Bourne" franchise with Tony Gilroy. They're doing a 2015 sequel to "Pitch Perfect," a sleeper hit musical aimed at the younger demo, the fourth biggest digital download last year. At $430 million worldwide, Oscar winner "Les Mis" was a big global hit second only to the studio's "Momma Mia!" Horror flick "Mama" did well, so did comedy "Identity Thief," which proved that Melissa McCarthy is a star. (So will Fox's hilarious Paul Feig summer comedy "The Heat," in which sh stars opposite Sandra Bullock., which screened Tuesday night.)

"The consumer wants more choice," he said. Up next, he's opening sci-fi "Oblivion" starring Tom Cruise overseas, where it's already earned $60 million. And opening it here in April, instead of summer. Applause.

More to come on Universal's 2013 presentation.

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