No icebergs got in the way of the box office achieving yet another record year in 1998. According to Variety, moviegoers spent $6.88 billion on tickets last year resulting in a healthy 9.9% increase from 1997. Admissions were higher too with 1.39 billion tickets sold, up 5.5% from 1997. With more available screens in the United States and Canada, films played wider and bigger as 8 titles debuted in over 3,000 theaters (up from just 2 in 1997) and 10 movies saw opening weekend grosses of more than $30M (up from 7 in 1997).

James Cameron's Titanic provided much of the drama as the epic film grossed over $600M domestically, $1.83 billion worldwide, won 11 Academy Awards, sold nearly 25 million videos, and 26 million copies of its soundtrack worldwide. Released in December of 1997, the action/romance dominated the box office during the early months by spending 13 of its 15 weeks at number one in 1998 and grossing over $488M of its massive total during the year as well, easily making it the most popular film of 1998.

But the year was filled with non-DiCaprio events as well. Two asteroid films and a pair of animated insect tales hit theaters within weeks of each other and proved that two good pictures, though similarly themed, can both survive at the box office. Comedy was king as almost every type of laugher was attracting large crowds all year long. From adult comedy (As Good As It Gets), to romantic comedy (The Wedding Singer), to family comedy (Doctor Dolittle), to gross humor (There's Something About Mary), to action comedy (Rush Hour), to sports comedy (The Waterboy), people just could not get enough laughter. These films proved that you don't need $100M budgets, special effects, or over-the-top hype to deliver highly profitable motion pictures.

It was also a good year for animation as a wide selection of toons, from various studios, hit theaters with nearly universal success. Disney offered Mulan and A Bug's Life, DreamWorks released Antz and The Prince of Egypt, Paramount unveiled The Rugrats Movie, and Warner Bros. stumbled with Quest For Camelot. Put together, these films should collect over $600M domestically making it the greatest year for animation ever.

While there were no huge breakout hits in the arthouses in 1998, the year did have its share of memorable titles like The Spanish Prisoner ($9.5M), Smoke Signals ($6.7M), The Opposite of Sex ($5.9M), Slums of Beverly Hills ($5.4M), and Pi ($3.2M). The closing weeks of the year brought a round of critical favorites that are currently busy making the awards rounds like Waking Ned Devine, Elizabeth, Shakespeare in Love, and Life is Beautiful. But undoubtedly the biggest story of 1998 in the limited release world was the IMAX film Everest that opened in March and has drawn huge crowds ever since. Playing in about 60 large screen locations, the brilliantly photographed picture has grossed $56M and continues to finish in the Top 25 each and every weekend. Everest single-handedly brought the IMAX format into a new era in 1998.

As far as studios went, Paramount sailed far ahead of the competition all year long on the strength of its love boat. But in the final two months of the year, Buena Vista brought out blockbuster after blockbuster and snuck ahead in the very end to steal the market share crown in 1998. Nevertheless, both studios claimed over $1 billion in ticket sales for the year - the first time two studios have reached that milestone in the same year. Warner Bros., Sony, and Fox followed with the first two enjoying yearend smashes while Fox saw most of its success over the summer. Overall, Hollywood recorded another banner year releasing fewer but better films.

Take a look back at the year that was with the two Top 50 lists below:

Top 50 Highest-Grossing Releases of 1998

Top 50 Opening Weekends of 1998

The table below wraps up the year in the lives of Hollywood's studios and distributors with total grosses in millions of dollars. Click on the distributor's name to read its Studio Spotlight review:

# Studio Releases B.O. Yr. Share (%) Cal. Yr. Wknds at #1
1 Buena Vista 19 $ 1,109.0 16.4 $ 1,103.0 6
2 Paramount 11 1,046.0 15.5 1,085.0 19
3 Warner Bros. 20 756.7 11.2 749.7 5
4 Sony 20 747.7 11.1 749.4 5
5 Fox 12 721.8 10.7 729.3 3
6 New Line 12 537.5 8.0 537.0 6
7 DreamWorks 5 467.2 6.9 481.4 6
8 Miramax 15 393.9 5.8 402.7 1
9 Universal 16 392.1 5.8 376.8 1
10 MGM/UA 5 182.2 2.7 200.6 0
11 Polygram 5 110.2 1.6 110.1 0

Releases - Includes films opening or expanding to 400 or more theaters in 1998

B.O. Yr. - Box Office Year (January 5, 1998 - January 3, 1999)

Cal. Yr. - Calendar Year (January 1 - December 31, 1998)

Source : EDI, Variety

Last Updated : January 8, 1999