This has been a landmark year for movies, but not in the way many of us might have expected. Blockbusters came out in droves to stake a claim at the box office, including the return of the Terminator and Mad Max franchises. But with summer coming to an end, many of the major studios' biggest efforts haven't captured the hearts and minds of audiences. Mad Max: Fury Road will certainly go down in history as one of our era's best action films, but Fantastic Four was both a critical and commercial failure, up there with some of the worst movies ever made.
But where studios might not have raised the bar in terms of quality, the year's biggest movies certainly ran away with our wallets. And no studio has earned more money this year than Universal Pictures. Furious 7 and Jurassic Park both managed to make more than a billion dollars worldwide, meaning Universal has already set new benchmarks for how much money can be made in one year — and 2015 isn't even over yet.
Check out the chart below to see the breakdown for the last four years in sales in the States alone:
As of this month, no other studio is even close to making that much. No studio has even ever crossed $2 billion in domestic sales before. (Universal is also the only studio to be trending upward, so executives must be really happy this year.) The only companies to get close are Sony in 2012 and Warner Bros. in 2013. But Sony has no chance of reaching its 2012 heyday for awhile, as it's still reeling from last year's crippling hacks. Warner Bros., on the other hand, may be content to have a low year, what with Batman v. Superman and Suicide Squad both coming out in 2016.
Paramount and Lionsgate both usually take the bottom rung of the top-grossing studios, so there are no surprises there. But seeing 20th Century Fox make so little might be surprising. Blame the abject failure of Fantastic Four. When you bank on a big movie and it tanks, it can crater how much you expect to make for the rest of the year.
Star Wars could change the game
That leaves Disney, and it's too soon to tell if it can claim the top spot. Why? Star Wars. If The Force Awakens can break all records in its first few weeks at the box office on its way to a billion dollars globally — and it will make a billion — Disney will prove that its formula for building massive brands works, stealing away what could have been Universal's year. We'll just have to wait until December to find out.
Update 4pm ET: The numbers in the chart above represent domestic gross, not worldwide totals as previously indicated.