AD Quality Auto 360p 720p 1080p Top articles1/5READ MORERose Parade grand marshal Rita Moreno talks New Year’s Day outfit and ‘West Side Story’ remake Universal was able to start the year strongly with its smash comedy “Meet the Fockers” drawing huge crowds through January on its way to an overall domestic gross of $279.2 million. But the studio’s next major hit didn’t come until late summer with the comedy “The 40 Year Old Virgin,” which took in $109.2 million domestically. Along the way, its critically acclaimed drama “Cinderella Man” starring Russell Crowe and Renee Zellweger performed below expectations ($61.6 million). “We had surprises, we had successes in every season but overall, for the industry, this has been a tough year,” Shmuger said. “We are on track for a hugely profitable year, the eighth straight year of profitability. Not everything has worked for us or the industry but on balance, it has been a year of solid returns.” Last year, Sony Pictures Entertainment had the superhero powers of “Spider-Man 2” to beef up its box office numbers. But nothing the studio released in 2005 began to even approach that level and their list of box office disappointments was long. Sony had a major hit early on with the Will Smith comedy “Hitch,” which took in $179.8 million domestically, and also had success in the fall with “The Exorcism of Emily Rose” ($75 million). Many of Hollywood’s major studios operated in the shadows of leaders Warner Bros. and 20th Century Fox in 2005. All had some highlights worth crowing about, but all too often they endured frequent box office heartbreaks. Led by 2004 holdover “Meet the Fockers” and their year-end box office leader “King Kong,” Universal Pictures managed to emerge with a third-place finish over Sony Pictures and Disney in the studio horse race. “Kong” has been the No. 1 film both weekends since its debut and has grossed $120.6 million to date. But the three-hour film directed by Peter Jackson has had to fend off strong competition and has not been the immediate breakout hit expected by industry experts. “We couldn’t be prouder of ‘King Kong,”‘ insisted Universal Studios Vice Chairman Marc Shmuger. “It has its own singular and impressive playability and that’s what we saw. And that’s what we are really confident we will continue to see in the coming weeks ahead.” The studio is also off to a good start with its current Jim Carrey comedy “Fun With Dick and Jane,” which took in $29.1 million in its first six days of release, and “Memoirs of a Geisha,” which has grossed $13 million in mostly limited release. But the ambitious summer films “XXX: State of the Union” and “Stealth” were considered bombs of major proportions, contributing mightily to the movie industry’s prolonged box office slump. “XXX” featured Ice Cube instead of original franchise star Vin Diesel and audiences stayed away, resulting in a paltry gross of $25.6 million while “Stealth” had a prime July release date and was largely ignored with ticket sales of just $31.7 million. “There were certainly weeks of the year where nobody won,” said Sony Pictures Vice Chairman Jeff Blake. “It wasn’t like we got beat by the competition. It’s a problem when it’s a matter of nobody shows.” Things did not improve in the fall with the family film “Zathura” and the film version of the Broadway smash “Rent,” which each grossed just under $30 million. “The good news for the movie business is audiences have said they will respond to something different if you look at `Memoirs of a Geisha’ and `Brokeback Mountain.”‘ Blake said. “On paper they are good films but how commercial are they? The public is saying they are ready for something different.” The Walt Disney Co.’s movie division repeated its 2004 pattern of underperforming during much of the year before coming on strong in the fall and continuing through the holiday season. “The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe” is the blockbuster the studio had been looking for all year with a gross-to-date of $166.6 million in just three weeks with plenty of steam left. It was preceded on the hit column by the CG-animated film “Chicken Little,” which has taken in $130 million so far. Distribution head Chuck Viane said that after enjoying major success with the Vin Diesel comedy “The Pacifier” ($133 million), Disney suffered through a string of summer disappointments starting with “Herbie: Fully Loaded” starring Lindsay Lohan ($66 million), the mystery “Dark Water” ($25.5 million), and the family film “Sky High” ($63.9 million). “Our summer was softer than expected,” Viane said. “We had much higher expectations for those movies being well-positioned in the summer.” The Jodie Foster thriller “Flightplan” began the studio’s comeback when the fall release opened at No. 1 and went on to gross $88.8 million. “From `Flightplan’ on, it’s been a remarkable turnaround,” Viane said. “Things are looking up. We are going to stop dwelling on the past and only look forward.” After years as an also-ran, Paramount Pictures began to show signs of life with several hit films. New Chairman Brad Grey brought in several top new executives when he succeeded Sherry Lansing in February and made high-profile production deals with some filmmakers, and the studio is in the process of acquiring DreamWorks. “It was an incredible year as far as grosses go, our biggest summer ever at the box office in the history of the company,” said Gerry Rich, Paramount’s president of worldwide motion picture marketing. Ironically, the studio’s two biggest hits, “War of the Worlds” and “The Longest Yard,” were greenlit by Lansing. The studio has been pleased with the performance of the summer drama “Four Brothers” ($74.5 million), family comedy “Yours, Mine and Ours” ($48 million to date) and with the $22.2 million grossed by “Hustle & Flow,” which had a production budget of just $8 million. But Paramount also had its share of disappointments (“Elizabethtown,” “Bad News Bears”) and outright bombs (“The Weather Man,” “Aeon Flux”). “We loved `Elizabethtown’ and wished it could have reached a more commercial road,” Rich said. “We thought it could do a bit more but it’s one of those things where we wouldn’t have done anything differently.” For DreamWorks, in its final full year as an independent studio, 2005 was highlighted by the tremendous success of its animated summer release “Madagascar,” which grossed $193.2 million domestically. The film, featuring the voices of Chris Rock, Ben Stiller and Jada Pinkett-Smith, has already been greenlit for a sequel. Distribution head Jim Tharp said the studio was also satisfied with the $55.5 million grossed by its fall animated release “Wallace & Gromit: The Curse of the Were-Rabbit.” But DreamWorks, which is being purchased by Paramount Pictures, ran into trouble on the live-action front during the summer with “The Island,” one of the year’s most high-profile bombs with a domestic gross of just $35.8 million. Also disappointing was the performance of the fall romantic comedy “Just Like Heaven” starring Reese Witherspoon, who is usually a major draw in the genre. “It’s two years in a row that animation has kind of led the way for us,” Tharp said. “`The Island’ and ‘Just Like Heaven’ didn’t meet expectations in a year that audiences clearly told us which movies looked compelling. There’s wasn’t a lot of ‘maybe that looks interesting so I’ll go check it out.”‘ New Line Cinema didn’t have a “Lord of the Rings” film to fatten its coffers but the studio enjoyed some major success with a few comedies. “The Wedding Crashers” starring Owen Wilson and Vince Vaughn was a bona fide smash in the summer with a domestic take of $209.2 million. New Line had preceded “Crashers” with the comedy “Monster-in-Law” which paired Jennifer Lopez with comeback queen Jane Fonda in her first movie role in 15 years. “Monster” took in $82.9 million. But the string of hit comedies was snapped in November when the Ryan Reynolds vehicle “Just Friends” stalled with a domestic gross of $31 million. On the dramatic front, New Line is getting critical kudos and a solid box office performance out of the modestly budgeted drama “A History of Violence,” which has grossed $31 million to date. Greg Hernandez, (818) 713-3758 firstname.lastname@example.org!dtpost Studio Standings As of Monday, the domestic box office total for 2005 stood at $8.47 billion. Here are the rankings with the percentage of the overall market earned by each major studio: 1. Warner Bros. Market share: 15.7 percent ($1.32 billion) Biggest Hit: “Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire”* ($262.4 million) 2. 20th Century Fox: Market share: 15.3 percent ($1.29 billion) Biggest Hit: “Star Wars: Episode III – Revenge of the Sith” ($380.8 million) 3. Universal Pictures: Market share: 11.0 percent ($931.2 million) Biggest Hit: “Meet the Fockers” ($279.2 million)** 4. Sony Pictures Entertainment: Market share: 10.1 percent ($856.4 million) Biggest Hit: “Hitch” ($179.8 million) 5. Walt Disney Studios: Market share: 10.1 percent ($855.2 million) Biggest Hit: “The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe.”** ($163.5 million) 6. Paramount Pictures: Market share: 9.8 percent ($828 million) Biggest Hit: “War of the Worlds” ($234.3 million) 7. DreamWorks: Market share: 5.9 percent ($500.3 million) Biggest hit: “Madgascar” ($193.2 million) 8. New Line Cinema: Market share: 4.9 percent ($419.5 million) Biggest hit: “The Wedding Crashers” ($209.2 million) (Figures as of Monday) * indicates film still in wide release ** released in late 2004 Source: Box Office Mojo 160Want local news?Sign up for the Localist and stay informed Something went wrong. Please try again.subscribeCongratulations! You’re all set!