July 6, 2011


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Written by: Mitch Salem
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 With a summer movie season bracketed by the first weekend in May on one end, and Labor Day on the other, we’ve reached the midpoint of 2011’s array of blockbusters, and for the next week, here at SHOWBUZZDAILY, we’ll be providing our judgments on how the studios are doing.  US Grosses are as of July 4, 2011; Overseas Grosses are as of July 3,2011.

Today;  Sumner Redstone’s Shop

US Release:  May 6
US Gross:  $177,988,100
Overseas Gross:  $261,700,000
Worldwide Total:  $439,688,100
US Release:  June 24
US Gross:  $157,281,396

Overseas Gross:  $379,298,005

Worldwide Total: $536,579,401

US Release:  June 10
US Gross:  $110,070,156
Overseas Gross:  $45,000,000
Worldwide Total:  $155,070,156
US Release:  June 29
US Gross:  $180,651,397

Overseas Gross:  $237,359,667

Worldwide Total: $418,011,064
With over $600M in domestic boxoffice so far and over $900M overseas (and both of those numbers are with Transformers just having opened), Paramount is having a healthy summer–although due to its conservative financing strategies, perhaps not quite as lucrative as it looks.

Even with a $200M production cost plus another $150M or so for worldwide marketing, THOR should turn a comfortable profit (the sequel’s opening date has already been set for July 26, 2013).  However, it was self-financed by Marvel Studios, leaving Paramount with a distribution fee that’s good to have but not the same as ownership.  (And now that Disney owns Marvel, Paramount’s own studio competitor will reap those benefits in the long-term.)

Similarly, KUNG FU PANDA 2 is a DreamWorks Animation production that’s merely distributed by Paramount.  Even with 3D ticket premiums, the US gross won’t measure up to the original Kung Fu‘s $215M earnings, but as with other franchises, the overseas revenues may more than make up for that.  However, Paramount again will only have a slice of those monies as distributor.

SUPER 8 was produced by Paramount, and on a budget (they claim $50M, although it’d be hard to find many non-employees who believe that).  More realistically, the combination of production and marketing costs probably comes to around $200M.  With its US theatrical release almost done, the picture will need some healthy overseas business to show much profit, and Paramount is rolling it out slowly, so we’re probably weeks away from knowing whether the ultimate ink will be black.  In any case, it won’t be a box-office bonanza.

Like, for example, TRANSFORMERS:  DARK OF THE MOON.  It’s possible Transformers 3 will “only” make $350M domestically, but it has an excellent chance of overperforming internationally, and getting to at least the $835M worldwide level of Transformers 2.  It’s a co-production with DreamWorks, and not only does that mean a profit split, but doubtless the studios have to give large chunks of the back-end to director Michael Bay and Executive Producer Steven Spielberg; this, however, is what’s called a “good” problem.  Not only that, but the franchise is sure to continue, and it’s much less tied to casting than, say, Pirates of the Caribbean (in other words, would anyone miss Shia LaBoeuf if he weren’t there?).  So those robots could keep crunching each other for many installments to come.

The conservatism of Paramount’s business strategy is matched by its creative vision.

Thor is a pompous superhero tale with more spectacle than is good for it, narratively speaking.  Luckily for Paramount and Marvel, it opened the same summer as Green Lantern, which has made all other superhero movies around it look better by comparison.
Kung Fu Panda 2 is a fairly high-quality sequel, and marks perhaps the first time in their shared history that DreamWorks can claim higher storytelling marks than Pixar.  But both sequels pale next to Paramount’s own springtime Rango and Fox’s Rio in terms of imagination and high-intensity fun.
Super 8 is an “original” story only in the most technical sense of the term, being a slavish homage to the Spielberg films of the 1970s and early 80s.  Creatively, it’s entertaining but entirely second-hand.
Transformers 3 is… well, it’s better than the other Transformers movies.  So there’s that.

CAPTAIN AMERICA:  THE FIRST AVENGER – July 22:  Oddly enough, this picture may best be remembered as the longest and most expensive trailer ever, for next summer’s Marvel extravaganza THE AVENGERS… which will be released by Disney.  Captain America itself, shoehorned in between Harry Potter and Cowboys and Aliens, could find itself overlooked, and the middling success of X-Men:  First Class suggests some audience resistance to the notion of period superhero movies.  After America’s release, the studio sits out the month of August (probably to the great relief of its marketing department).


THE MONEY:   B-:  Paramount has avoided any financial black holes, but it has limited a generous upside by distributing rather than owning too many pictures.   

THE QUALITY:  B-:  The studio hasn’t released anything terrible, nor anything that’s even tried to be great.  It’s a factory, and so far none of its summer products have needed to be recalled–or remembered.

Click HERE to read the other studio report cards.

About the Author

Mitch Salem
MITCH SALEM has worked on the business side of the entertainment industry for 20 years, as a senior business affairs executive and attorney for such companies as NBC, ABC, USA, Syfy, Bravo, and BermanBraun Productions, and before that, at the NY law firm of Weil, Gotshal & Manges. During all that, he has more or less constantly been going to the movies and watching TV, and writing about both since the 1980s. His film reviews also currently appear on and In addition, he is co-writer of an episode of the television series "Felicity."