Comcast’s Universal Pictures and Walt Disney dominated the film industry in 2015, at the expense of Viacom’s Paramount Pictures, 20th Century Fox, Sony and Lion’s Gate Entertainment, which all posted lower sales.
The winners accounted for half of North American ticket revenue, according to data from Rentrak.
The conventional wisdom in Hollywood is that movie-going begets more movie-going, and that a bumper year is good for everyone.
Yet the division of spoils is uneven, and with the domestic film industry showing little growth over the long-term, a big year for one or two studios can mean forgettable results for others.
Universal had “an almost freakishly good year,” said Paul Sweeney, a Bloomberg Intelligence analyst, with hits like Jurassic World and Furious 7.
Star Wars has been everything Disney had hoped for, and more.
The film sets up Disney “to monetise its $4bn acquisition of Lucasfilm for years to come,” said Mr Sweeney.
Nor did theatre-owners benefit equally from the hot movies that drew moviegoers in droves this year.
Imax, whose large-format screens fetch premium ticket prices, and Carmike Cinemas, led North American exhibitors in sales growth this year, according to company reports and data.
Investments in luxury seating in the US, and a greater share of ticket sales coming from higher-end screens and 3-D viewing, boosted the average ticket price in 2015. That helped exhibitors increase revenue.
Despite the great rush of fans to Star Wars: The Force Awakens, which could overtake Avatar as the biggest movie domestically, 2015 wasn’t universally good for exhibitors’ share prices, either.
Though Imax has fallen 8% since the release of Star Wars, the shares are still up 17% this year.
The big decliner is No. 1 exhibitor, Regal Entertainment Group, down 12% this year.
“Imax not only has zero-margin pressure — given long-term agreements — but also the most attractive licensing model of the group,” Eric Wold, an analyst at B Riley, who recommends the stock, wrote in a note to investors.
Hollywood’s winners and losers are always tough to predict.
That’s because studios trade places based on surprise hits.
Time Warner’s Warner Bros. dominated the box office for years, before hitting a rough patch in 2015.
That’s when releases like Pan, Jupiter Ascending, and Entourage failed to connect with fans.
Next year could be better, with the studio bringing out new movies based on DC Comics and a fresh offering from JK Rowling.
One safe prediction from Mr Wold: Star Wars: The Force Awakens will give ticket sales a tailwind into the new year.