Social media, upgraded theaters help drive $11 billion year

LOS ANGELES -- It takes more than "Star Wars" to make an $11 billion year.

Disney and J.J. Abrams pushed 2015 over the mark days before its conclusion, but many factors helped make the year the biggest of all time -- including social media and better theatrical experiences -- which helped draw audiences away from their home entertainment centres and into the multiplex.

See Full Article

In 2014, "The Interview" was released in theatres and online at the same time, and this year saw streaming service Netflix enter theatrical feature territory with "Beasts of No Nation" and "The Ridiculous 6," both of which played in theatres and online simultaneously, alarming exhibitors. Yet attendance at the movies was up around four per cent for the year, according to Jeff Goldstein, Warner Bros.' executive vice-president of domestic distribution.

It didn't hurt that 2015 started off with some significant momentum from "American Sniper," had the "Jurassic World" juggernaut in the summer, and then ended on the enormous high note of "Star Wars: The Force Awakens," which on Wednesday became Disney's biggest domestic earner in just 13 days of release.

"It's like kicking the winning field goal at the end of the game. That's what 'Star Wars' did," said Paul Dergarabedian, senior media analyst for box office tracker Rentrak.

The overall slate didn't look very different from years past, with 688 new releases. There were the near annual installments of franchises that continue to rake in the money ("Furious 7," "Avengers: Age of Ultron," "Spectre," "The Hunger Games: Mockingjay -- Part 2," "Mission: Impossible -- Rogue Nation"). And there were properties resurrected from years ago, some of which worked ("Jurassic World," "Star Wars: The Force Awakens") and some that didn't ("Fantastic Four," "Terminator Genisys"). There were franchise starters that hit ("Fifty Shades of Grey") and some that were dead on arrival ("The Man From U.N.C.L.E."). There were ambitious original ideas that succeeded ("Inside Out"), while others crashed and burned ("Tomorrowland," "Crimson Peak," "Jupiter Ascending"). Live action fairy tales flew ("Cinderella") and floundered ("Pan"). And there were the smaller investments that paid off big ("Pitch Perfect 2," "Creed," "Straight Outta Compton," "Trainwreck").

Universal, which ranked fifth in 2014, skyrocketed to become the top studio of 2015, thanks to enormous hits like "Jurassic World," "Furious 7," "Fifty Shades of Grey," "Minions" and "Pitch Perfect 2."

According to Nick Carpou, Universal's president of domestic distribution, the studio found success in scattering its diverse offerings throughout the year, finding audiences that might be underserved in certain months and translating that into big returns.

Social media also mattered more in the past year. Carpou, his industry counterparts and various box office analysts agreed that social buzz could make or break a movie almost immediately.

"I think that's how 'Jurassic World' started the weekend looking like a big success and ended the weekend breaking all records," said Carpou. "That's people telling people."

Disney, which ranked second, followed a very different strategy, focusing on 15 new releases (to Universal's 26) from their various brands, whether homegrown or acquired, like Lucasfilm, Marvel, Pixar and live-action reboots of their animated classics.

In third place, despite successes like "American Sniper," Warner Bros. struggled a bit more with some higher profile flops, such as "Pan."

"It's all about content. We've always known that. If it's something the public wants to see, they're going to come out," said Goldstein.

Fox, with big successes such as "The Martian" and missteps like "Fantastic Four," came in fourth, while Sony, which did well with "Spectre" and "Hotel Transylvania 2," placed fifth. Sony's smaller labels helped, too, with films like "War Room" and "The Perfect Guy."

Beyond the appeal of individual movies, exhibitors were also wising up to consumer demands. The days of sticky floored venues with small seats and smaller screens may never go away completely, but audiences have more options now in screen size, visual and audio quality, reserved luxury seating, and even gourmet food service, all of which usually means higher ticket prices.

"We're giving them choices and we're giving them choices at every price point. It's like when you buy an airline ticket," said Goldstein.

Erik Davis, managing editor of ticketing site Fandango.com, says this improved theatrical experience is becoming a big draw for people.

"I definitely think the more comfortable theatres are making it, the more people are inclined to go to the movies," Davis said.

The boutique chain Cinepolis boasts a full bar, leather reclining seats and in-theatre dinning with wait staff. Cinepolis currently operates in Southern California and Florida, with plans to expand to Texas, Virginia, Connecticut and Ohio in 2017. Meanwhile, bigger chains are clamouring to compete with these so-called "diamond theatres."

Technology, too, is being upgraded across the country from Dolby Atmos sound systems to IMAX screens, giving audiences a specific reason to seek out big movies in theatres.

Release dates in 2015 were particularly well-spaced, said Greg Foster, CEO of IMAX Entertainment. This allowed for multi-week runs of some of the year's biggest movies on the pricier IMAX screens.

"People who love movies love IMAX," said Foster. "We've carved out a position as the place that avid moviegoers see big tent pole blockbuster films."

But the 2015 celebration just makes everyone more focused on the year ahead.

"2015 is not the one-hit wonder of box office years," said Dergarabedian.



Advertisements

Latest Entertainment News

  • Trump feted by Tony Orlando, Jackie Evancho at inauguration

    Entertainment CTV News
    WASHINGTON -- Donald and Melania Trump were feted at their inaugural balls by the Rockettes and by singer Tony Orlando, who sang his famous "Tie a Yellow Ribbon Round the Ole Oak Tree." Meanwhile, earlier in the day, it was 16-year-old singer Jackie Evancho who had the spotlight, singing the national anthem in a soft, solemn voice. Source
  • Selena Gomez and The Weeknd spotted at impromptu John Mayer gig

    Entertainment Toronto Sun
    Selena Gomez and The Weeknd went public with their new romance in Silver Lake, California on Thursday night when they were spotted at the Tenant of the Trees club. The couple was spotted hugging and kissing outside a Santa Monica, California restaurant earlier this month, but they played it low-key on Thursday and were rarely caught together during the night out. Source
  • Jennifer Aniston eager to return to TV

    Entertainment Toronto Sun
    Jennifer Aniston is eager to return to TV, insisting she is ready to enter a new phase of her career. The actress starred on hit show Friends from 1994 to 2004, before becoming one of Hollywood’s top movie stars, but now the actress feels there is a lot of quality work on TV - and she is hoping to land a new show. Source
  • Jackie Evancho, Mormon Tabernacle Choir perform at inauguration, but A-listers gather at unofficial events

    Entertainment CBC News
    The new president called out "Great job, Jackie!" after 16-year-old Jackie Evancho delivered a soft-voiced rendition of the national anthem at Friday's swearing-in ceremony. INTERACTIVES | Donald Trump sworn in as president The Mormon Tabernacle Choir sang America the Beautiful, and the Missouri State University Chorale sang Now We Belong, in a ceremony that featured decidedly less star power than in 2013. Source
  • Idina Menzel, Nia Long bring 'Beaches' remake to TV

    Entertainment Toronto Sun
    PASADENA, Calif. — For Idina Menzel and Nia Long, director Garry Marshall’s 1988 melodrama “Beaches,” starring Bette Midler and Barbara Hershey, is a four-hankie treat. So why do a remake? “Why not?” replied Long (“The Best Man Holiday”), pointing to the story’s timeless elements. Source
  • Rapper iLoveMakonnen comes out as gay

    Entertainment Toronto Sun
    Rapper iLoveMakonnen has come out as gay on social media. The hip-hop star, who used to be signed to Drake’s OVO Sound record label, took to Twitter in the early hours of Friday morning to confirm long-running rumours he is homosexual. Source
  • Al Gore stays mum on Trump meeting, says 'it's not the last'

    Entertainment CBC News
    Former Vice President Al Gore said that while he wouldn't divulge specifics about his December conversation with Donald Trump, it wasn't "the last conversation." Speaking to a packed auditorium in Park City following the premiere of the climate change documentary An Inconvenient Sequel: Truth to Power, which kicked off the 33rd Sundance Film Festival Thursday, Gore said that he's seen a lot of people who started out as climate deniers change over time. Source
  • E-book publishers and Apple reach new deal with Competition Bureau over pricing

    Entertainment CBC News
    Three major book publishers have signed a deal with Canada's Competition Bureau that will allow retailers to sell those publishers' e-books at whatever price they want — something they couldn't do before. Holtzbrinck (which operates under the Macmillan brand name) along with Simon & Schuster and Hachette? have come to an agreement that could allow electronic book sellers such as Apple and Kobo to set the prices of books they sell by those publishing houses. Source
  • 'We make the terror'; On Inauguration Day, ’House of Cards’ announces May return

    Entertainment Toronto Sun
    BEVERLY HILLS, Calif. — “House of Cards” will return in May for a fifth season. The show’s Twitter account posted a video on Inauguration Day featuring an upside-down U.S. flag in front of the U.S. Capitol. The video ends with the date May 30. Source
  • Animal treatment questions cancel 'A Dog's Purpose' premiere

    Entertainment CTV News
    LOS ANGELES - This weekend's premiere of "A Dog's Purpose" has been cancelled following the release of a video that appears to show a frightened dog being forced into churning water during production of the film. Source