NEW YORK (TheStreet) -- Hollywood has always loved making movies but as television enjoys a resurgence that has dampened the allure of the local cinema, film executives at Disney (DIS), 21st Century Fox (FOXA), Viacom (VIA), Comcast's (CMCSA) NBCUniversal, and Time Warner (TWX) are focused on the single blockbuster.
The largest U.S. movie studios are making fewer films while favoring features based on already well-known characters and popular products as a means to guard against the big flop while boosting revenue at other parts of their entertainment conglomerates.
"Increasingly, the studios are making bigger bets," Doug Creutz, media industry analyst at Cowen & Co., said in a phone interview from San Francisco. "It's not worth it for them to make a small bet because even if it works, you're not going to make a lot of money, most of the time. There's a move toward the blockbusters, and as a result, we have a lot of those."
Thor: The Dark World met expectations for its opening weekend earlier this month, bringing in $86 million in box-office sales, according to Rentrak, RENT, the media measurement agency, and lifting Disney's global movie theater sales beyond its previous record of $3.791 billion set in 2010.
Thor's solid debut follows the write-off of roughly $190 million for Lone Ranger, the Johnny Depp-led misstep that might have rattled most companies. But Disney's film studio actually increased profits in the quarter, largely on the back of Monsters University, which generated $264 million at North American box offices this year and Iron Man 3, poised to be the top grossing film of 2013 with more than $1.2 billion in global box-office sales with $408 million coming from North America.
For Disney CEO Bob Iger the Lone Ranger episode recalls 2012 when the world's largest entertainment company took a $200 million writedown for the sci-fi blunder John Carter, only to regain profitability with Avengers and Rocket Ralph.
In the hunt for the blockbuster, there are winners and sometimes there are duds.