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Record year at the US Box Office (2004)



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 studios.

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 consecutive year.

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 Treasure.

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