Story by: Jack Foley
THE US Box Office was set to enjoy a record-breaking year in
2004, with figures expected to reach $9.4 billion, thereby beating
2002's all-time high.
In what proved to be a consistently profitable year for Hollywood,
several films surpassed box office expectation, meaning that the
lack of a major Christmas hit, like Lord
of the Rings, didn't have as big an impact as many had predicted.
Another factor in the record-breaking figures is the fact that
ticket prices have risen this year, which means that receipts
are higher, even though actual admissions have shown a decrease.
The average cost of a cinema ticket is estimated to be as high
as $6.25 in 2004, compared to $5.80 in 2002, according to Exhibitor
Relations President, Paul Dergarabedian.
But that's not to detract totally from some of the achievements
this year, particularly as two of the biggest hits - Mel Gibson's
The Passion of the Christ and
Michael Moore's Fahrenheit
9/11 - had to fight for their success outside of the major
Surprise hits had also come from
some of the more art-house offerings delivered by the big companies,
such as festival favourite, Napoleon
Dynamite, and the Oscar-tipped Sideways,
starring Paal Giamatti.
Explained Mr Dergarabedian: "Many of the films that did
well [with audiences] are not necessarily the films that made
a lot of money."
However, Sony Pictures, the company responsible for hits like
Spider-Man 2 and The
Grudge, was due to top the domestic market share for the second
time in three years, with $1 billion-plus in sales for the third
Sony Pictures Entertainment vice-chairman, Jeff Blake, commented:
"We had a really diverse slate this year, and... certainly
we pulled off one of the surprises with The Grudge."
Of the other major companies, Warner Inc are likely to end the
year in second place on market share with around $1.25 billion
(thanks to the success of films such as Harry
Potter & The Prisoner of Azkaban and Troy),
while Disney come in at number three, thanks to the late success
of films such as Pixar's The Incredibles
and Nicolas Cage's National