Universal Pictures ends 2008 with $2.83 billion at box office

MUMBAI: Universal Pictures recorded its biggest year ever for the second year in a row with global theatrical grosses totaling $2.834 billion for 2008. Universal’s domestic box-office tally of $1.12 billion outpaced the record it previously set in 2007, which was $1.099 billion.

Internationally, Universal shattered last year’s box-office mark of $1.034 billion, with a 2008 total of $1.714 billion, for a year-over-year improvement of 66 percent.

The announcement was made by Universal Pictures chairman Marc Shmuger and Universal Pictures co-chairman David Linde. All numbers are estimates, and final figures will be available on 5 January, 2009.

"If 2007 was a turnaround year for Universal, 2008 proved our studio’s ability to consistently deliver the highest quality commercial hits. To have two successive years of record-breaking success is an incredible achievement, and we thank our teams from around the world that produced, marketed and distributed a slate of films that, again, set a new standard for our studio. This year, we created new franchises, extended others, released the most successful movie musical in history and continued our tradition of turning modestly budgeted comedies into solid hits. Our strength of success comes from this diversity. We worked with some of the most interesting and inspiring filmmakers and talent working anywhere and released some of the years most critically acclaimed and rewarded films. We are proud to close out another year with historic success," stated Shmuger and Linde.

The studio released four films this year that grossed more than $100 million domestically: The Incredible Hulk, Wanted, Mamma Mia! and The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor. In addition, the studio released three comedies — Forgetting Sarah Marshall, Baby Mama and Role Models — which grossed more than $60 million apiece, while being produced with modest budgets.

At the international box office, Universal Pictures International (UPI), in its second year of operation as a wholly owned distribution entity, tallied $1.714 billion, beating its former 1999 record (when it was part of joint venture UIP) of $1.16 billion by nearly 50 percent. UPI reached the $1 billion threshold on 13 August, earlier than ever before in Universal’s history. The record-breaking $428.5 million foreign success of Mamma Mia!, led the juggernaut, and UPI also had two other films gross more than $200 million with The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor and Wanted, and one more to break $100 million with The Incredible Hulk.

Mamma Mia! was the studio’s biggest earner of the year, both domestically ($144 million) and internationally ($428.5 million). Opening on 18 July, it set the record for biggest domestic opening ever for a musical and reached $100 million faster than any other tuner in history.

In addition to these commercial successes, Universal also released some of the year’s most critically acclaimed motion pictures. Guillermo del Toro dazzled audiences and critics alike with the detail and depth of his imagination in Hellboy II: The Golden Army. and Clint Eastwood’s debut drama Changeling at the Cannes Film Festival to rave responses.

Imagine Entertainment and Working Title Films’ Frost/Nixon is among the most heralded films of the year. Directed by Ron Howard and written by Peter Morgan — who adapted his own award-winning play — Frost/Nixon is one of only two films to be recognized as one of the best of the year by the four leading awards groups: the Golden Globe Awards, the Critics’ Choice Awards, the National Board of Review and the American Film Institute.

Focus Features began 2008 with the Working Title’s Atonement honored with seven Academy Award nominations, including Best Picture. In September, Focus enjoyed the biggest opening in its history with the $19.2 million opening weekend domestic take of Working Title’s Burn After Reading, written and directed by Joel and Ethan Coen, which went on to gross more than $60 million domestically (making it the highest grossing film from a specialty company this year).

Milk has become one of the most honored and acclaimed films of 2008. Last but not least, writer/director Martin McDonagh’s In Bruges, which world premiered as the opening-night film of the Sundance Film Festival, also has been cited by many critics as being among the best and most original films of the year and earned a Best Picture and two Best Actor (Comedy or Musical) nominations from the Golden Globes.