With three films passing $1bn worldwide, 2012 was a banner year for studios at the global box office.
Nobody did it better. The record-breaking late surge of Skyfall, the 23rd official cinematic mission of James Bond, helped Sony become the highest grossing studio globally in 2012. Overall, Sony grossed a mammoth $4.45bn in the calendar year, including its best ever international total of $2.67bn, beating the studio’s previous overseas record of $2.14bn, in 2009.
Highlights of Skyfall’s run at the global box office include becoming the first ever film in the UK to break the £100m ($161m) barrier, contributing to it becoming the most successful Sony release in history and toppling the previous $890.9m record of Spider-Man 3. Sony grosses on the film amounted to $918.1m in 2012 (including $291.5m in the US - peerless in Bond terms) and when MGM territories are taken into account - MGM’s distribution partners released in select international markets - Skyfall is the first Bond film to gross more than $1bn, based on unadjusted grosses.
Skyfall was not Sony’s only hit in 2012. Both 3D reboot The Amazing Spider-Man and the return of J and K in Men in Black 3 took more than $600m globally, with their respective $262m and $179m domestic tallies contributing to Sony’s market-leading 2012 haul of $1.78bn in the US.
Second on the worldwide stage was Warner Bros, narrowly behind Sony with a $4.33bn result including the fifth time the studio has crossed the $2bn mark at the international box office at $2.67bn (including $57m generated by Village Roadshow territories).
Powering this result was the climactic instalment of Christopher Nolan’s Batman trilogy, The Dark Knight Rises, which followed in the footsteps of The Dark Knight and grossed more than $1bn worldwide - one of three films in 2012 to do so, alongside Skyfall and Marvel’s The Avengers. Among its records, The Dark Knight Rises is the highest grossing Nolan film internationally as well as being the biggest ever Warner Bros release in South East Asia, excluding China and Japan. In total, The Dark Knight Rises fought its way to $1.08bn globally, including $448.1m in the US to become the second-biggest film of 2012 domestically.
A late boost for Warner Bros came from Peter Jackson’s return to Middle Earth, with The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey grossing $710.3m in December worldwide, around two-thirds of which came from international forays.
Twentieth Century Fox was third at the global box office, with $3.72bn worldwide. Fox was also champion of the international marketplace for the third time in four years. Helped in no small way by Ice Age: Continental Drift becoming the biggest animation of all time at the overseas box office with a huge $718.1m, Fox titles accumulated a total of $2.71bn internationally which amounts to a 26% increase on 2011’s return (2010’s $2.93bn haul remains Fox’s record international gross).
China played a part as well, as Titanic 3D accumulated a whopping $150m in the territory before Ang Lee’s awards contender Life of Pi grossed $90.8m in the later months of 2012 on its way to an impressive $224.6m thanks to strong returns across the rest of Asia.
The eagerly awaited Prometheus marked Ridley Scott’s return to the Alien-verse and also a $404.1m worldwide haul, becoming Fox’s second-best performer globally in 2012.
Despite providing the biggest global hit of 2012 in the form of The Avengers, Walt Disney had to settle for fourth place on the worldwide chart with $3.64bn, with 2012 marking the third consecutive year the studio has broken the $2bn barrier internationally at $2.09bn, slightly down on 2011’s $2.18bn.
The Avengers contributed $1.5bn to Disney’s worldwide bounty on its way to becoming the third biggest film of all time, behind James Cameron’s Avatar and Titanic. Most notably, The Avengers debuted to a stunning industry record $207.4m in North America going on to gross more than $600m, a major factor in Disney achieving its best-ever year domestically at $1.55bn.
Disney also provided the biggest animation in the US, with Pixar’s Brave taking $237.3m. It was also the highest grossing film internationally, not based on an established property, at $301m.
While it found itself fifth on the global box-office chart with $3.13bn, 2012 was a banner year for Universal as the studio marked its highest grossing year at the worldwide box office, breaking its domestic record in October before surpassing its international record on December 21.
A clutch of strong performers helped the studio achieve this, including Seth MacFarlane’s directorial debut Ted which became the highest grossing original R-rated comedy in history at $503m globally. Rupert Sanders’ Snow White & The Huntsman grossed more than $400m worldwide, while - somewhat unusually for an animation - Dr Seuss’ The Lorax garnered more domestically ($214m) than internationally ($135.6m). Overall, seven Universal films made more than $200m worldwide.
Coming off an industry record international gross of $3.2bn in 2011, 2012 saw Paramount gross $2.48bn worldwide, maximising revenue from a reduced release slate.
The studio’s lead performer was DreamWorks Animation’s Madagascar 3: Europe’s Most Wanted, the latest in the popular animated franchise, recording a robust $743.3m globally, including more than $500m internationally. One of last year’s late releases in the form of Mission:Impossible - Ghost Protocol also enjoyed a solid 2012, with $357.2m accumulated globally throughout the year.