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America's Most Successful Movie Studios

Marvel's Guardians Of The Galaxy Ph: Film Frame ©Marvel 2014
Source: The Walt Disney Co.
The first weekend of August is now behind us and we have a new, all-time leading August movie release weekend champion. Marvel’s “Guardians of the Galaxy” grabbed $94 million in U.S. box office sales this weekend to topple the previous record-holder from August of 2007, “The Bourne Ultimatum” which opened with $69.3 million.

After a glance through the top 20 movies of the summer, we thought it would be interesting to see how the stock prices compare with U.S. ticket sales for the summer movie season that runs from the first of May through the Labor Day weekend.

As Box Office Mojo notes, a year ago hardly anyone knew anything about the Guardians, and one more remarkable aspect of the weekend’s box office receipts is that the movie opened to bigger crowds than sequels to other franchise characters like Spider-Man and X-Men. Only “Transformers: Age of Extinction” and “Captain America: The Winter Soldier” had bigger opening weekend sales, with $100 million and $95 million, respectively. The fourth Transformers movie is the second of the series to top $1 billion in worldwide ticket sales, having passed that number this past weekend on the strength of $300 million in sales to China’s moviegoers.

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Both the Captain America sequel and the Guardians were released by Buena Vista, a wholly-owned subsidiary of Walt Disney Co. (NYSE: DIS). The Transformers movie was released by Paramount, a subsidiary of Viacom Inc. (NASDAQ: VIAB), which also released “Hercules” (2014) in July.

Fox Studios, owned by Twenty-First Century Fox Inc. (NASDAQ: FOXA), places four movies in the top 20: “X-Men: Days of Future Past” (opening date May 23), “Dawn of the Planet of the Apes” (July 11), “How to Train Your Dragon 2” (June 13) and “The Fault in Our Stars” (June 6). The four are responsible for nearly $713 million in box office receipts.

Warner Bros., a division of Time Warner Inc. (NYSE: TWX), placed the most movies on the list of the top 20, but the problem for the studio is that there are a few duds in the mix. The five films are “Godzilla” (2014) (May 16), “Edge of Tomorrow” (June 6), “Tammy” (July 2), “Jersey Boys” (June 20, and “Blended” (May 23). Neither of the last two has broken $50 million yet, and “Tammy” has averaged just $20 million in its four weeks of release. Warner’s total take so far this summer is $471.1 million.

Sony Corp. (NYSE: SNE) places three films in the top 20: “The Amazing Spider-Man 2” (May 2), 22 Jump Street (June 13) and “Think Like a Man Too” (June 20). Total take for the three to date is $455.6 million.

Of the top 20 summer box office hits, Disney claims three, “Maleficent” starring Angelina Jolie, the Guardians, and “Planes: Fire & Rescue.” Since the first of weekend of May, these three films have poured more than $376 million into Disney’s coffers.

Paramount’s Transformers is the top box office attraction of the summer with $241.2 million in ticket sales since opening on June 27th. “Hercules” is Paramount’s other entry in the top 20, and the two together have totaled $$293.5 million. At just over $52 million for two weekends, the studio must be disappointed that “Hercules” has not done better in its U.S. release and hoping for better worldwide ticket sales.

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Three films from the Universal Studios of Comcast Corp. (NASDAQ: CMCSA) made it into the top 20: “Neighbors” (May 9), “Lucy” (July 25) and “The Purge: Anarchy,” which combined for a total of $292.2 million.

Lions Gate Entertainment Corp. (NYSE: LGF) did not place a movie on the summer list of top releases until slot number 27 with its documentary “America” (2014), which has tallied just $14.1 million since its release on June 27. Universal’s biopic of James Brown, “Get On Up,” opened with $14 million this weekend and will easily pass the Dinesh D’Souza documentary this week.

Contrary to the top box office ranking, Lions Gate’s stock has appreciated more than any other studio since May 1. Shares are up nearly 20%, more than double the hike in shares of runner-up Disney. Comcast (Universal) is up about 4.8% and Sony is up about 1%. Viacom and Fox are both lower by about 1.4% and 2.1%, respectively.

Lions Gate’s secret is the third installment of “The Hunger Games” franchise, this one subtitled “Mockingjay, Part 1” due for release on Thanksgiving weekend. Each previous installment sold more than $150 million in opening weekend tickets, and there’s no reason to expect anything else from the third installment.

The big surprise from the success of “Guardians of the Galaxy” this past weekend is that we may have just seen the birth of the next Spider-Man or Captain America comic-book hero franchise. That’s something that Disney is looking forward to, and now millions of us are looking forward to that as well.

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