The Billion Dollar Club

The Billion Dollar Club


Repost of our CEO Adam’s blog post over the weekend on the past, present and future of moviegoing.

Last week I reported that 2014 could be the first year since 2007 not to have a $1bn movie. Given the film industry has well and truly become a franchise business, that will be a major surprise.

But before we get into that, what is a $1bn movie and just how significant is that number? Looking back, only 17 movies have hit the $1bn mark and no, we are not accounting for inflation here. Only 2 of the 17 have been properties without existing equity. The first 2, The James Cameron movies. 10 of the 17 have been sequels and the rest have been re-boots, part of long standing franchises or properties based on best selling books.

Let’s look at the list:
(WW = Worldwide)
(US + Int’l = Worldwide cume)

  1. Avatar (Fox, 2009) $2,782.3 (WW) $760.5 (US) $2,021.8 (Int’l)
  2. Titanic (Paramount/Fox, 1997) $2,186.8 (WW) $658.7 (US) $1,528.1 (Int’l)
  3. Avengers (Disney, 2012) $1,511.8 (WW) $623.4 (US) $888.4 (Int’l)
  4. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2 (Warners, 2011) $1,341.5 (WW) $381.0 (US) $960.5 (Int’l)
  5. Iron Man 3 (Disney, 2013) $1,214.7 (WW) $409.0 (US) $805.7 (Int’l)
  6. Transformers: Dark of the Moon (Paramount, 2011) $1,123.8 (WW) $352.4 (US) $771.4 (Int’l)
  7. The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King (Warners, 2003) $1,119.9 (WW) $377.8 (US) $742.1 (Int’l)
  8. Skyfall (Sony, 2012) $1,108.6 (WW) $304.4 (US) $804.2 (Int’l)
  9. Dark Knight Rises (Warners, 2012) $1,084.4 (WW) $448.1 (US) $636.3 (Int’l)
  10. Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest (Disney, 2006) $1,066.2 (WW) $423.3 (US) $642.9 (Int’l)
  11. Toy Story 3 (Disney, 2010) $1,063.2 (WW) $415.0 (US) $648.2 (Int’l)
  12. Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides (Disney, 2011) $1,043.9 (WW) $241.1 (US) $802.8 (Int’l)
  13. Jurassic Park (Universal, 1993) $1,029.2 (WW) $402.5 (US) $626.7 (Int’l)
  14. Star Wars: Episode I – The Phantom Menace (Fox, 1999) $1,027.0 (WW) $474.5 (US) $552.5 (Int’l)
  15.  Alice in Wonderland (Disney, 2010) $1,024.3 (WW) $334.2 (US) $690.1 (Int’l)
  16. The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey (Warners, 2012) $1,017.0 (WW) $303.0 (US) $714.0 (Int’l)
  17. The Dark Knight (Warners, 2008) $1,004.6 (WW) $534.9 (US) $469.7 (Int’l)

Now let’s consider some interesting stats:

  • Disney – 6
  • Warners – 5
  • Fox – 3
  • Paramount – 2
  • Sony – 1
  • Universal – 1

No surprise that the leaders here are the 2 businesses most equipped to launch major franchise properties, Disney and Warner Brothers.

But the most interesting fact of all has to be that the only movie to have achieved a $1bn with a greater share of box office coming from the US is The Dark Knight (53% of business was domestic). 7 of the top 10 movies saw 65%+ of its business come from overseas.

It’s also worth noting that despite Jurassic Park releasing in 1993, the first movie to hit a $1bn was Titanic (hitting $1.8bn on its original release). Jurassic Park only hit the $1bn mark after its 3D re-release in 2013. Its very clear from the chart above that the only man capable of translating original stories to global success is James Cameron.

Looking at 2014, its hard to see who will join the $1bn club. The only contenders look to be Transformers 4 if it can continue where the last one left off, though you feel time and momentum may have passed. The only other contender looks to be The Hobbit but it will likely be touch an go. However, look to 2015 and could we be seeing history, beating the best year ever 2012 which saw 4 $1bn movies? We have:

  • The Avengers: Age Of Ultron
  • Star Wars: Episode VII
  • Bond 24
  • Jurassic World
  • The Untitled Superman/Batman movie
  • The Minions

Now from that list, only the first two are certainties, but you wouldn’t bet against Bond after Skyfall’s incredible performance. It also feels like the time is right for another Jurassic Park movie and pairing Superman and Batman is likely to cause worldwide hysteria. I also have a sneaky suspicion that The Minions will make the list given the incredible $873m performance to date of Despicable Me 2.

My guess would be that by the end of 2016, the list of $1bn movies will stand at 30. Given I expect a quiet year next year, that shows you where this business is going and in 2015 and 2016, studios will be releasing less movies, but with a far higher return. It is now:

  • The day of the franchise movie (equity, equity, equity)
  • The day of product lifecycle (toys, theme park rides)
  • The day of less volume
  • The day of more low risk/high reward

And on a personal note, I have had the pleasure of being associated with 10 of the 17 movies in the above list. What a lucky man I am.