STUDIO SPOTLIGHT 2000
*** NEW - Top 50 Lists and Studio Breakdowns below ***
With no recounts needed, the North American box office in 2000 inched past the previous year's tally to set a new record for the motion picture industry. However, the new benchmark was due entirely to a rise in ticket prices and not attendance which finished down slightly from 1999 when Star Wars Episode I and The Sixth Sense were attracting long lines. According to final data released by Exhibitor Relations, total box office for the year 2000 amounted to $7.7 billion (up only 2.7% from 1999) led by such blockbusters as the holiday smash How The Grinch Stole Christmas and the summer action hit Mission: Impossible 2, each of which crossed $200 million in domestic sales. Overall attendance, however, was estimated at 1.43 billion - off 2.5% from last year. Nineteen releases surpassed the $100 million mark with a couple of late-year titles hoping to eventually join the club as well.
Disney and Universal were the top studios releasing product in 2000 as both companies collected $1.1 billion in ticket sales. Disney eked out a small victory with an extra $12M and held the market share lead for most of the year, despite a spectacular fourth quarter performance by Universal led by The Grinch and Meet the Parents which together contributed $415M by year's end. With 18 films opening or widening in 2000, versus Universal's 15, Disney's Buena Vista banner had more product including the IMAX run of Fantasia 2000 which earned the studio nearly $50M during its four-month run.
Although Buena Vista won the crown, its tally represented a 12% decline in sales compared to 1999 as opposed to Universal which set a new company record and surged 16% ahead of its previous year's take. Warner Bros. ranked third for the year with $891M (off 14% from 1999), DreamWorks followed with $770M (up a fantastic 138%), and Paramount finished in fifth place with $786M (down 7%). However, with major films increasingly being split between studios and production companies, market share has become less an indicator of profitability and more about plain bragging rights.
The year began on a positive note with strong holdovers from 1999 and a slate of expanding Oscar contenders keeping theaters busy. Young adults made hits out of the sequels Next Friday and Scream 3 before the spring season brought out big Hollywood stars in films like Erin Brochovich and Rules of Engagement. Contributions from films like U-571, Romeo Must Die, Mission to Mars, and Final Destination put the year above 1999's levels by 10% going into the lucrative summer season.
Although May was strong with Gladiator, MI2, and Disney's Dinosaur, the June box office stalled with a number of summer films performing below expectations. July sizzled with explosive launches for The Perfect Storm, Scary Movie, X-Men, Nutty Professor II, and the leggy What Lies Beneath. But August and September were filled with relatively weak product and wiped away any gains achieved earlier in the year. The fall was saved by Remember the Titans, Meet the Parents, and Charlie's Angels which opened the door to a record holiday season. With Christmas and New Year's falling on Mondays, consumers had extra long weekends to enjoy and spent much of their time at the local theater spending endless amounts of cash allowing the year to finish slightly ahead of 1999's record gross.
Along the way, many of Hollywood's highest-paid actors scored the biggest commercial hits of their careers. In addition to Jim Carrey's The Grinch and Tom Cruise's MI2, new highs were also reached by Robert De Niro (Meet the Parents), Denzel Washington (Remember the Titans), George Clooney (The Perfect Storm), and Martin Lawrence (Big Momma's House). Plus, Mel Gibson and Tom Hanks witnessed huge openings for their holiday movies What Women Want and Cast Away, respectively, which will certainly rank among the top earners on their résumés. Conversely, a number of stars stumbled at the box office as their latest big-budget films performed as poorly as internet stocks. Audiences yawned at Arnold Schwarzenegger's The 6th Day, Sylvester Stallone's Get Carter, Will Smith's The Legend of Bagger Vance, and John Travolta's dual flops Battlefield: Earth and Lucky Numbers.
Some of the year's other major hits included director Ridley Scott's epic action-adventure Gladiator, which established Russell Crowe as a major star, grossing $450 million at theaters worldwide and setting new DVD sales records in the fourth quarter. Fox took a risk and won big with X-Men which collected nearly $300 million globally. A-list stars like Harrison Ford and Julia Roberts delivered big with What Lies Beneath and Erin Brockovich, respectively, with the latter generating enormous Oscar buzz for its heroine.
Aside from inconsistent box office momentum, other unfortunate factors plagued the film industry in 2000. One by one, exhibition chains were filing for bankruptcy protection and missing earnings forecasts. Years of overbuilding met head-to-head with disappointing product leaving many screens with few moviegoers in front of them. Congress blasted Hollywood for its marketing practices accusing the major studios of selling R-rated films to children and demanding that the industry change its ways. And with a new year now begun, talks of strikes by writers and actors has already had a significant effect on the development of numerous films.
Modestly budgeted teen comedies continued to bring in healthy cashflow in 2000. Some of the year's most profitable films targeted the MTV generation including Bring It On ($10M budget/$68M gross), Road Trip ($15M/$69M), and Dude, Where's My Car? ($13M/$36M to date). Plus the teen slasher category was active with Miramax's Scream 3 bringing in $89.1M while the distributor's spoof comedy of the genre, Scary Movie, grossed a staggering $157M while costing only $19M.
Arthouses had a tough time for most of Y2K but were redeemed at year's end by an avalanche of promising titles. Paramount Classics blossomed in its first full year of distribution with The Virgin Suicides in the spring, Sunshine in the summer, and You Can Count On Me in winter. Fellow newcomer Universal Focus hit it big in the fall with the British film Billy Elliot. Other notable pictures thriving in limited release included Croupier, East is East, Saving Grace, and Best in Show. With the arrival of the holiday season, arthouses had plenty of reasons to be thankful for with strong performances by Quills, Chocolat, and Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon which could become the highest-grossing foreign language film in domestic box office history.
Top 50 Films of 2000
Top 50 Openings of 2000
The table below wraps up the year in the lives of Hollywood's studios and distributors. Annual grosses cover the 365-day period of January 3, 2000 - January 1, 2001 (the Monday after New Year's weekend 2000 until the end of New Year's weekend 2001). Listed are the grosses for both 2000 and 1999 and the percentage change. Also noted are the number of wide releases in 2000 (movies opening or expanding to 500 or more theaters) and the total weekends at number one.
Click on the distributor's name to read its Studio Spotlight summary:
|#||Distributor||2000||1999||% chg.||Wide Releases||AVG ($M)||Wknds at #1|
|1||Buena Vista||$ 1,098.0||$ 1,241.0||-12%||18||61.0||4|
Source: ACNielsen EDI
Last Updated : January 18, 2001
Written by Gitesh Pandya