STUDIO SPOTLIGHT On the strength of Titanic, Paramount Pictures stood triumphantly at number one with a vast lead over all other studios throughout 1998. But in the final weeks, they lost the market share crown to Buena Vista which crammed a number of hit films into the fourth quarter. Still, Paramount exceeded $1 billion in ticket sales in one year for the first time ever and did it with fewer films. Its slate of only 11 new wide releases was sharply lower than 1997's count of 17 and Disney's 1998 tally of 18 which meant that Paramount got much more out of each film.
Titanic was the story of the year and dominated the box office like no other film had in the past. It remained the number one film for 15 consecutive weeks and grossed over $500M before relinquishing the top spot in April. Of its $600.8M domestic tally, $488.2M of it was earned in 1998 making it the single biggest ticket-seller of the year. But Paramount didn't stop there. Deep Impact rocketed to the top in May grossing $140.5M and was followed by the critically-acclaimed film The Truman Show which took in $125.6M. Between those three films, Paramount had the number one movie in the country for 17 of 26 weeks in the first half of 1998. How could any rival studio match such dominance?
The flow of product for the rest of the year was relatively low. Snake Eyes grossed $55M in the late summer and A Night at the Roxbury gave the studio a modest hit with a $30.3M take. The big guns were held for the holiday season with The Rugrats Movie and Star Trek: Insurrection. Rugrats surprised many people with its enormous $27.3 launch and should finish with an astounding $95-100M giving Paramount a profitable new franchise. Trek, part of an aging franchise, opened well but could not crossover to non-trekkers and will finish its domestic run as one of the lowest-grossing movies in the nine-part sci-fi series.
Paramount's tendency to co-finance expensive films was evident in its slate of films in 1998. Titanic, of course, was a Fox film until they sought a partner to help cover the $200M budget. Deep Impact was handled by Dreamworks overseas while Snake Eyes had Buena Vista as the overseas partner. In addition, the Dreamworks smash Saving Private Ryan was distributed by Paramount abroad (through UIP) and has raked in over $232M to date and could see much more coin after Oscar nominations are announced.