Summer Box Office 2014: Which Studio Was the Winner?

NEW YORK (TheStreet) -- The movies might have been packed with explosions, but the summer box office ended with more of a whimper. Gross domestic ticket revenue peaked at $4.05 billion to end the Labor Day weekend, down 15% from $4.75 billion a year earlier. For the first time since 2001, no single summer hit crossed the $300 million mark.

Don't feel too bad for the major studios, though. While there were no runaway hits the likes of last year's Iron Man 3 or The Avengers in 2012, there were still plenty of million-dollar franchises to cruise by on.

Here are the winners and losers of the summer 2014 box office by studio. 

6. Comcast's (CMCSA) Universal Studios

Funny Makes Money Award: Neighbors, a frat-boy flick starring Seth Rogen and Zac Efron, led the charge with an early May release and pulled in a total $266.6 million globally, nearly 15 times its production costs.

Women Can Anchor Action Movies Award: Lucy also proved a prickle in the side of naysayers who argue female characters cannot front multimillion-dollar movies. The Scarlett Johansson flick generated $270.2 million worldwide.


Winner of The Critics Were Right Award: Seth MacFarlane's A Million Ways to Die in the West limped out of the gate in late May making only $42.7 million domestically, little more than the $40 million cost it cost to produce the movie. Expectations were high given MacFarlane's 2012 film Ted scored $218.8 million over its domestic run. 

Other films:

  • The Purge: Anarchy ($103.6M)
  • Get On Up ($29.6M)
  • Wish I Was Here ($4.03M)

Total gross: $759.9 million. An impressive total given no film cost more than $50 million to make. However, it's a pittance compared to 2013, a year in which Despicable Me 2 made more than $970 million.

5. Sony (SNE)

Biggest Franchise-Killer: Sony had pinned its hopes on The Amazing Spider-Man 2 as its big-budget, big-returns tent-pole film. While the reboot's sequel generated $708.3 million, its domestic revenue of just more than $200 million was a fraction of its estimated $255 production budget. The frigid reception was enough for the studio to push The Amazing Spider-Man 3 from its 2016 release slate to an unspecified date in 2018.

Read More: Did Sony Pictures Have to Spend $255 Million on Spider-Man 2?

Best Bang for the Buck Sequel: 22 Jump Street, sequel to the 2012 release starring Channing Tatum and Jonah Hill, generated $314.4 million worldwide. That was more than six times its production costs and 56% more than the original. 

Winner of the Really Wish I Hadn't Seen That Award: Surprisingly Tatum and Hill had more chemistry onscreen than Cameron Diaz and Jason Segel, which partially explains why Sex Tape suffered such a limp result. The mid-July release, which cost $40 million to produce, made only $80.8 million worldwide.

Read More: Spider-Man, Batman and the Business of Comic-Con

Other films:

  • Think Like a Man Too ($69.2M)
  • Deliver Us From Evil ($55.6M)
  • Moms' Night Out ($10.4M)
  • When the Game Stands Tall ($18.7M)

Total gross: $1.26 billion. Much of the total was due to Spider-Man 2 and 22 Jump Street, though smaller-budget films Think Like a Man Too and Deliver Us From Evil helped to push it over the billion-dollar mark.

4. Time Warner's (TWX) Warner Brothers

Winner of the Thank You, China Award: Tom Cruise action film Edge of Tomorrow was dead on arrival in North America but made nearly four-fifths of its box office overseas. While nowhere near as profitable as hoped for, its success overseas did allow the Warner Brothers flick to at least be more of a dud than a disaster.

Best Reboot: Godzilla, a reboot of the classic Japanese disaster movie, pulled in $507.9 million, threefold its production budget.

Winner of Feel Ashamed It Made a Profit Award: Despite being universally panned, Adam Sandler flick Blended actually made off with a total $123.5 million, well over its $40 million production cost. It didn't enjoy the success of Grown Ups 2 ($247 million) a year earlier but was by no means the disaster it could have been.

Read More: How Godzilla Made Foreign Film a Box Office Monster

Worst-Performing Movie: Jersey Boys, directed by Clint Eastwood, performed disastrously compared to how much it cost. The film, based on the Broadway musical, cost $40 million to make and only generated $58.9 million worldwide, the worst performer comparative to its production costs.

Other films:

  • Tammy ($96.1M)
  • Into the Storm ($90.4M)
  • If I Stay ($36.8M)

Total gross: $1.28 billion. Warner Brothers had to rely on sum-of-its-parts revenue generation this season, which aside from Godzilla and a strong international showing for Edge of Tomorrow, produced little in the way of strong box-office contenders.

3. Disney's (DIS) Buena Vista

Winner of Biggest Domestic Hit: Disney's Guardians of the Galaxy effortlessly earned and held onto the title of biggest domestic hit of the summer even though being released in the tail-end of the season. The 10th film from Marvel Studios pulled in just more than $280 million, a wide lead over the summer's second-biggest domestic hit, Transformers: Age of Extinction.

Read More: 'Guardians of the Galaxy Breaks Disney's Superhero Mold

Other films:

  • Maleficent ($748.7M)
  • Planes: Fire & Rescue ($94.7M)
  • The Hundred-Foot Journey ($41.1M)
  • Million Dollar Arm ($36.9M)

Total gross: $1.47 billion. Disney was at a disadvantage to compete with its own strong 2013 summer box office which accumulated $2.42 billion due to Iron Man 3 and Monsters University. In fact, the former nearly surpassed Disney's entire 2014 season, generating $1.22 billion. But the strength of Guardians and Maleficent, the first- and third-highest grossing films of the summer, helped it keep its edge.

2. Viacom's (VIA) Paramount Pictures

Winner of Biggest Overseas Hit: Transformers: Age of Extinction was formulaic but the Michael Bay-produced flick made big bucks (which won't help in keeping these reboots and sequels out of cinemas). The film was the highest-grossing in international markets with more than 77% of total sales coming from overseas.

Read More: Michael Bay and the Makings of Big-Blockbuster Critical Flops

Biggest Big-Budget Flop: With a $100 million production budget, Hercules was expected to generate herculean revenue. The film, starring Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson, made only $174.9 million worldwide.

Other films:

  • Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles ($278.5M)

Total Gross: $1.53 billion. For Paramount, its success began and ended with Transformers (though TMNT was an unexpected late-summer hit, giving the topline some padding). 

1. 21st Century Fox (FOXA)

Best Small-Budget Flick: The Fault In Our Stars was the antithesis to Transformers -- a small-budget romance which proved that the movies that draw audiences needn't always come from reboots, sequels and the pages of comic books. The $12 million movie generated nearly 24 times that and though it made nearly two-thirds of what Spider-Man 2 did it cost less than 1/20th to make. 

Other films:

  • X-Men: Days of Future Past ($745.4M)
  • Dawn of the Planet of the Apes ($611.5M)
  • How to Train Your Dragon 2 ($592M)
  • The Fault In Our Stars ($286.5M)
  • Let's Be Cops ($69M)

Read More: Michael Bay and the Makings of Big-Blockbuster Critical Flops

Total gross: $2.3 billion. Disney and Paramount may have held onto the top three spots on the box office charts all summer but the studio with the biggest haul was Fox thanks to volume. Its blockbusters -- X-Men: Days of Future Past and Dawn of the Planet of the Apes -- were the fourth- and fifth-highest grossing flicks of the summer, while How to Train Your Dragon 2 and Let's Be Cops helped to push its total above $2 billion.

-- Written by Keris Alison Lahiff in New York.

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