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Hollywood Profits Scorecard: Time Warner Takes the Cake and Universal Sees Most Growth in 2013


Stats show that Hollywood profits are up 23%, and "Despicable Me 2" was Universal's single most profitable film ever.

Without a single ounce of doubt, 2013 was an amazing year for movies. Critics would agree: We were spoiled with an embarrassment of riches. Soon to be classics like American Hustle, The Wolf of Wall Street, Her, Gravity, and, most of all, 12 Years a Slave, were all released within mere months of each other. And financially, Hollywood had a heck of a year as well. Together, the six major studios took in a total profit of $4.3 billion, up 23% from 2012's $3.5 billion.

This increase was certainly aided by the digital-streaming trend led by Netflix (NASDAQ:NFLX), Apple (NASDA:AAPL), and Amazon (NASDAQ:AMZN), which helped offset plummeting DVD sales. However, credit must also be given to the sheer quality of this year's movies.

Here, we have a breakdown of how much profit each of the six major studios took last year.

2012: $79 million
2013: $483 million
Change: Up 511%

Sure, the studio, which is owned by Comcast (NASDAQ:CMCSA), had some flops -- namely, the Keanu Reeves-led samurai action flick 47 Ronin, which lost $175 million. However, NBCUniversal had one massive saving grace called Despicable Me 2. Made for $76 million, the film went on to gross $970,761,885 internationally. As CEO Steve Burke has said, it "is going to end up being the single most profitable film in the 100-year history of Universal Studios." Add the successes of Fast & Furious 6 and Les Miserables and not even Keanu Reeves wielding a samurai sword could keep NBCUniversal from having a great 2013.

Disney (NYSE:DIS)
2012: $543 million
2013: $836 millon
Change: Up 54%

Disney also had a monumental stinker on its hands: July's The Lone Ranger, which lost the company $190 million. However, Disney more than handily made up for the loss with hits from its three biggest assets: Marvel, Pixar, and its own animation studio. Iron Man 3, Thor: The Dark World, Monsters University, and Frozen together grossed nearly $3.6 billion.

For more on Disney's continued domination of the box office, read Disney Will Rule the World in 2015.

2012: $217 million
2013: $299 million
Change: Up 38%

Viacom's Paramount went lean in 2013, cutting its total production down to 10 films, from 15 the year before. That cost cutting, plus solidly performing tentpole films G.I. Joe: Retaliation, World War Z, and Star Trek: Into Darkness, as well lower-budget hits like Anchorman: The Legend Continues and The Wolf of Wall Street (which was actually independently financed), helped Viacom make a significant gain in profit in 2013.

Time Warner (NYSE:TWX)
2012: $1.24 billion
2013: $1.33 billion
Change: Up 7.3%

With the mega-profitable Harry Potter series ending its eight-film box-office annihilation in 2011, many expected that Warner Bros. would suffer a post-Potter slump for years to come. In fact, 2013 proved to be the studio's most profitable single year of all time, thanks to the huge blockbusters Man of Steel and The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug, as well as smaller, surprise hits like Gravity and We're the Millers. With all this success, plus that of the company's television production studio WBTV, which produces audience favorites such as The Big Bang Theory and The Mentalist, Time Warner easily took the cake in 2013.

21st Century Fox (NASDAQ:FOXA)
2012: $1.18 billion
2013: $1.12 billion
Change: Down 5.1%

Fox's 2013 blockbusters The Wolverine, A Good Day to Die Hard, and The Croods performed well enough, but could not match the strong grosses of 2012's hits (Ice Age: Continental Drift, Life of Pi, Taken 2). With the poor performance of flops like the Owen Wilson-and-Vince Vaunghn-work-at-Google (NASDAQ:GOOG) comedy The Internship and Runner, Runner starring Justin Timberlake, Fox's decreased profit is not surprising. However, the Melissa McCarthy and Sandra Bullock buddy comedy The Heat, which was produced for $43 million and grossed $229,930,771, helped to offset some of that prolific floppage. And like Warner Bros., Fox has a successful and consistent television studio (American Horror Story, Modern Family, The Simpsons) that helped keep the company's profit well over $1 billion.

2012: $434 million
2013: $295 million
Change: Down 32%

Sony's big flops last year were After Earth and White House Down, which the studio countered with the considerable year-end hits Captain Phillips and American Hustle. Additionally, the studio netted $106 million from the sale of its music publishing catalog. Still, it was not nearly enough to match the $278 million boost the studio received in 2012 from selling the merchandising rights for the Spider-Man franchise. Meanwhile, the company has received pressure from activist hedge fund investor Dan Loeb to cut costs and focus more on its television production, which includes Community, Damages, and the great, but now over, Breaking Bad.

Follow me on Twitter: @JoshWolonick and @Minyanville
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