Features and Columns · Movies

Universal Has Made More Money This Year Than Most Major Studios Combined

By  · Published on August 25th, 2015

And they did it without a single superhero movie.

Unless you consider Dom Toretto to be a superhero, which isn’t exactly a crazy idea. After all, the guy jumps out of cars going over a hundred miles an hour to catch people mid-air and land without a scratch. He repeated that feat this year to the tune of $1.5b worldwide, and Furious 7 was only the second-highest grossing movie Universal put out.

That honor goes to Jurassic World, which scored $1.6b worldwide and somehow cost less to make.

Universal’s domestic total so far is $2.1b, which is more than 20th Century Fox ($754m), Paramount ($523m), Sony ($309m), Lionsgate ($269m) and The Weinstein Company ($238m) combined. That list, as you can see, includes three of the six major studios and two mini-majors. All of that is basically insane.

Granted, it was a relatively slow year on the spandex front. We only had three: Age of Ultron, Ant-Man and Fantastic Four, and only Marvel’s AI takeover made it into the top ten (so far).

That’s encouraging both for fans who are growing tired of superhero stories and studios who are looking beyond them for success. Granted, Universal has also dominated and broken records this year with several sequels (including the seventh entry in an action franchise), an animated spin-off and a high profile sex book adaptation. Obviously the big lesson of the year (and, really, this summer) isn’t necessarily sunshine and roses for originality, but it’s definitely an interesting precursor to 2016, where we’ll see 8 superhero movies.

But to end on a brighter note in regards to a potential change in the way studio business is done, I leave you with Mark Harris from Grantland, who can’t be improved upon here:

Furious 7, which has the most ethnically mixed ensemble of any major franchise, added another $1.5 billion to Universal’s take. But what’s really notable to me is the studio’s B team – its fourth-, fifth-, sixth-, and seventh-highest grossers this year. Those movies – Pitch Perfect 2, Fifty Shades of Grey, Straight Outta Compton, and Trainwreck — have several things in common: modest budgets, strong marketing, and a lack of concern about bringing in the young white male demographic that is still considered by too many studios the be-all-and-end-all of the movie business. Combined, those four “small” movies have grossed close to $1.1 billion worldwide – about 10 times their combined production budget. If other studios don’t realize that’s good business, it can only be because it’s a lesson they don’t want to have to learn.

As next year’s superhero battle royale is mostly between Disney, Fox and Warners, it’s important to note that going big isn’t necessarily the only way to win big.

Even more impressive? This is the second year in a row that Universal has used modest budgets for large success.

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Movie stuff at VanityFair, Thrillist, IndieWire, Film School Rejects, and The Broken Projector Podcast@brokenprojector | Writing short stories at Adventitious.