Sony Pictures Entertainment has broken its own industry record for North American ticket sales by one studio in a single calendar year, registering $1.29bn and passing 1997's previous best mark of $1.27bn with more than four months to spare.
With a 2002 slate that includes such tentpole successes as Spider-Man and Men In Black 2, which to date have grossed $404m and $189m respectively, Sony's releases have accounted for 21% of the market are currently leading the second place studio by $450m. The studio distributes titles for Columbia Pictures, Revolution Studios and Screen Gems.
In a banner year, Columbia alone has released three $100m+ pictures (Spider-Man, Men In Black 2 and Mr. Deeds, which grossed $124m) and six number one slots at the domestic box office. Other hits have included Black Hawk Down and Panic Room.
Those figures could increase with an autumn and winter release schedule that includes 12 pictures, among them Eddie Murphy and Owen Wilson in the comedy caper I Spy, Robert Carlyle and Samuel L Jackson in the thriller Formula 51 and at least two Oscar hopefuls, Spike Jonze's Adaptation and the acclaimed Paul Thomas Anderson comedy Punch Drunk Love (which has just be selected as the centrepiece film at the upcoming New York Film Festival, having already won Anderson the best director prize at Cannes).
"This is a phenomenal achievement that is even more staggering when you begin to calculate how these titles are performing internationally, and how they will generate revenue when they are released into the television and home entertainment arenas," said Sony Pictures Entertainment chairman John Calley, who announced the figures yesterday.
"This is a milestone that is usually determined on December 31st after we've counted every last dollar, not the middle of August," said SPE president of world-wide marketing and distribution Jeff Blake.
In 1997 Sony's biggest performers were the original Men In Black, which grossed $250.7m, and Air Force One, which took $172.9m.