Universal Studios is now one of the world's foremost movie and entertainment businesses. It was the #3 studio by US box office in 2018, but made it to #1 in 2015 as a result of the massive global success of 'Jurassic World', still its biggest ever hit. In the US alone, Universal's total box office topped $2.4bn that year, still a record performance for the studio. The Jurassic series has been one of its most important franchises in recent years, along with 'Fifty Shades', 'Fast & Furious' and 'Despicable Me'. 'Jurassic World' from 2015 is its all-time box office champ at $1.67bn. Universal's biggest global hit in 2019 was 'Hobbs & Shaw', from the 'Fast & Furious' franchise, but takings were lower than might have been expected at $759m. (Previous iterations had routinely topped $1bn). Other global hits included the latest 'How To Train Your Dragon' ($522m), 'Secret Life of Pets 2' ($429m) and 'Us' ($255m). The main Universal Pictures production and distribution unit is partnered by arthouse-oriented Focus Features (whose Spike Lee's 'BlacKkKlansman' was a critical hit in 2018), as well as animation studios Illumination (the 'Despicable' series as well as 'The Grinch' and 'The Secret Life of Pets') and DreamWorks Animation (original home of 'Shrek' and 'Madagascar' and more recently 'Trolls' and 'How To Train Your Dragon'). Despite its current size, Universal was initially one of the smaller US movie studios, best-known in its early days in the 1930s for a series of hugely popular but comparatively low-budget horror movies, including the original 'Dracula' and 'Frankenstein'. It was transformed in the 1950s following its acquisition by MCA, then America's biggest talent agency. Later it went through a succession of different owners until being acquired in 2004 by General Electric, becoming part of that company's NBC Universal media division. Universal Studios and NBC Universal are now controlled by cable giant Comcast. In addition to the main movie studio, the company controls an extensive library of past movies as well as hugely popular theme parks in the US, Japan and Singapore. Donna Langley is chairman, Universal Filmed Entertainment; Thomas Williams is chairman & CEO, Universal Parks & Resorts; both reporting to Jeff Shell, chairman NBCUniversal Film & Entertainment. Filmed Entertainment generated revenues of $7.2bn in 2018 and EBITDA of $734m. Theme Parks generated revenues of $5.7bn and EBITDA of $2.5bn.
Capsule checked 10th January 2020
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Historical profile information for Universal Studios
Adbrands Weekly Update 4th Jan 2018: Walt Disney was undeniable champion of the US (and global) movie box office in 2017. On release for just the last two weeks of the year, Star Wars: The Last Jedi roared to the top of the US charts with ticket sales of almost $540m, overtaking Disney's live action Beauty & The Beast. That crowdpleaser retained its title as the global #1 with box office of $1.26bn. (Last Jedi has yet to open in several global markets, including China). Another Disney release, Guardians of the Galaxy Vol 2, was the #4 movie in the US behind Warner Bros' Wonder Woman, one of the year's most unexpected box office sensations. Globally, though, Disney shared the top honours with Universal Pictures, whose Fate of the Furious and Despicable Me 3 were the #2 and #4 movies. In terms of combined US box office takings, Disney held the #1 spot with $2.4bn, ahead of Warner with $2.0bn. (Without the contribution from Last Jedi, Disney and Warner would have been on level pegging). Universal ranked #3 at $1.5bn while 20th Century Fox had $1.3bn. Sony, Lions Gate and Paramount held the next three places. However, the biggest contributing factor in the numbers was the record highs reached by ticket prices. Total US takings were still down a little over 2% from 2016 at $11.17bn, while total admissions in volume terms are thought to have hit a 27-year low. The downturn in the US was offset by surging attendance (and ticket prices) in international markets. Total cinema takings are expected to top $40bn for the first time in history, helped by a 20%-plus surge in China to $8.6bn.
Adbrands Weekly Update 28th Apr 2016: Comcast has agreed to acquire DreamWorks Animation, the company behind the Shrek and Kung Fu Panda franchises, for $3.8bn, more than 50% pre-offer market value. If the deal comes off, DreamWorks would merge with the group's Universal Pictures division, which has a fast-growing animation unit of its own. Its most recent release, Minions, was one of the five biggest grossing movies of last year, beating even Disney's Inside Out at the global box office. DreamWorks founder and CEO Jeffrey Katzenberg - who would earn around $22m from a sale - is expected to remain with the group as chairman of DreamWorks New Media, overseeing the company's interest in AwesomenessTV and other online operations.
Adbrands Weekly Update 7th Jan 2016: The movie industry enjoyed - superficially at least - a banner year in 2015, with global box office topping $38bn, as a result of behemoths like Universal's Jurassic World and Furious 7 and Disney's Avengers Age of Ultron and Star Wars. Jurassic was the world's biggest movie with global takings of $1.7bn, followed by Furious 7 ($1.5bn) and Star Wars (both $1.5bn), and Avengers ($1.4bn). US box office hit an all-time record of $11.1bn according to BoxOfficeMojo, with Universal and Disney both reaching unprecedented highs of $2.4bn and $2.3bn respectively. Only one studio had ever previously topped $2bn in a single year (Warner in 2009). However, the headline success masks a worrying overall picture. Just six films from two studios (the afore-mentioned four plus Disney's Inside Out and Universal's Minions) accounted for more than a quarter of US box office, with a combined haul of almost $2.9bn between them. Many more releases, including several expensively budgeted and promoted films, failed to find an audience. Confirmed big-budget flops included Pan and Jupiter Ascending (Warner), Tomorrowland (Disney) and Fantastic Four (Fox), all grossing under $100m. Several star vehicles - Lions Gate's Mortdecai with Johnny Depp, Warner's Our Brand Is Crisis with Sandra Bullock and Fox's Victor Frankenstein with Daniel Radcliffe - failed even to reach $10m at the box office. Audiences have become "very binary" in their moviegoing choices, Sony Movies chairman Tom Rothman told the WSJ. "Many younger people no longer feel compelled to go to the movies as an activity in general. Instead, they go to see a particular movie. Either a film is relevant to them and penetrates the pop-cultural zeitgeist, in which case the upside is enormous, or it doesn't rise to that level and they're out altogether."
Adbrands Weekly Update 20th Aug 2015: With four months still to go this year, Comcast's Universal Pictures has already set a new record for global box office, as a result of a string of spectacularly successful movie releases. Total worldwide takings are already over $5.76bn, beating what was previously the all-time record of $5.52bn set by 20th Century Fox for the whole of 2014. Universal has scored five of the 10 top movies at the US box office so far this year: Jurassic World, Furious 7, Minions, Pitch Perfect 2 and 50 Shades of Grey; newer releases Trainwreck and Straight Outta Compton are also on course for substantial returns.
Adbrands Weekly Update 9th Jan 2014: Movie studios enjoyed another record year in the US in 2013, with total box office gross edging up just under 1% to $10.92bn, despite several well-publicised flops. Attendance figures were more or less level with the previous year at 1.36bn tickets sold. Arguably the biggest overall success of the year was The Hunger Games sequel, which managed to accumulate an extraordinary $407.5m in little more than a single month, making it the #2 movie overall behind Iron Man 3, which took four months to achieve a US gross of $409m. Only two of the Top Ten moves - Frozen and Gravity - were original material rather than sequels or adaptations, although there were eight originals in all among the Top 20. (That was somewhat better than the six original movies in 2012's Top 20 and just two in 2011). Warner Bros was the overall champion by box-office with a total US gross of $1.86bn from 25 movies. Disney's Buena Vista held second place with $1.71bn from just 10 releases. Sony came 4th, despite the fact that its most popular release, Grown Ups 2, only just scraped into the Top 20. Worldwide, Disney's Iron Man 3 was the single biggest release of the year with total global gross of $1.2bn, followed by Universal's Despicable Me 2 ($919m) and Lions Gate's Hunger Games: Catching Fire ($831m).
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