Top Film Industry Stories of 2013: #2

Disney and the Delightful, Wonderful, Splendid, Very Good Year

By Kim Hollis

January 12, 2014

Happy Birthday, indeed.

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Once we started moving toward the holiday season, the Mouse House started kicking things into high gear once again. Yet another Avenger appeared on the big screen, and this time it was Thor in a movie subtitled “The Dark World”. Just like Iron Man 3, Thor had experienced expansion of audience thanks to the mega-hit from 2012. Its $85.7 million opening weekend was exactly $20 million higher than that of the first movie in the series, and The Dark World’s final domestic total of $203.9 million compares favorably with Thor as well. Of course, as we’re seeing over and over again, it’s the overseas totals that really inflate, and Thor 2 is no exception. Its $427 international revenue is a tremendous spike over the first movie’s $269 million. Not only had Disney’s purchase of Marvel paid off, but their plan to indoctrinate an entire generation into loving the characters was succeeding beyond their wildest dreams.

Thanksgiving brought a treasure in the form of Disney Animation’s Frozen, a new princess story with a sisterly theme. It started off strong with a Pixar-esque $67.4 million during its opening weekend, but it’s what happened after that opening weekend that is truly amazing. As of this writing, Frozen has earned a spectacular $317.6 million and will eventually surpass $330 million, thereby making it the largest non-Pixar Disney animated release during first run (The Lion King is still tops if we count its re-releases). It’s also approaching $400 million overseas and is lock for an Academy Awards nomination or three. There simply aren’t enough superlatives to heap on this box office performance, and if you walk into your nearest Disney store, you’ll see that the Frozen merchandise is dominating the shelves. Princess Anna and Queen Elsa are surely going to be the new favored princesses amongst young ladies for a few years moving forward.

Impressing on a smaller scale was Saving Mr. Banks, the story of how Walt Disney helped to bring Mary Poppins to the big screen. With a tight $35 million budget, Saving Mr. Banks has scored $69 million to date in North American theaters, and had just gotten started in foreign venues as of the day this column was written. Another likely awards contender, it may be able to translate any momentum from Oscar nominations to additional earnings.


Now, you might be wondering where The Lone Ranger is in this discussion. Isn’t it one of the biggest bombs of the year? It’s true that it had a $215 million budget and came nowhere near that amount, finishing with just $89.3 million domestic. It did save itself somewhat with an overseas take of $171.2 million, but that number is surely not enough to help put the project in the black. Nonetheless, given the exceptional performance of their other titles, The Lone Ranger is a footnote in an otherwise exemplary year. Besides, once 47 Ronin flopped during the Christmas season, the Lone Ranger’s failure was put in perspective.

On top of their box office earnings, Disney can claim $1 billion in revenue from their consumer products division. Marvel products, Cars/Planes toys, Frozen dolls and the Disney Infinity video game helped the company to become the true juggernaut of 2013.

The final feather in The Walt Disney Company's cap is the fact that Yahoo! Finance named them as its Company of the Year, citing their customer loyalty, strategic focus, friendliness of shareholders and financial performance. Yahoo!’s comments provide a fitting summary for why Disney really did have a supercalifragilisticexpialidocious year.

"The Walt Disney Company has honored the past, delivered in the present and [is] positioned for the future better than any other American company. It's the company's successful striking of this rare balance-while focusing on careful financial stewardship and great customer experiences-that helped Disney edge out all others to be named this year's Yahoo Finance Company of the Year."

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