Universal Pictures

by Jordan Frankel


© Copyright 2012 Universal Studios

Key People

Ron Meyer– President and Chief Operating Officer

Adam Fogelson– Chairman

Jimmy Horowitz– President

Rick Finkelstein– Vice Chairman and Chief Operating Officer

Brief Overview

This year Universal celebrates its 100th anniversary, the company was incorporated April 30th, 1912 and has been shaping the history of film ever since. It is the oldest movie studio in the United States of America and has made such classics as All Quiet on the Western Front, To Kill a Mockingbird, The Deer Hunter, and Schindler’s List.[i]

In May of 2004 controlling stake in Universal was sold to General Electric resulting in the creation of the media super-conglomerate NBC Universal, while Universal Studios Inc. remained the name of the production subsidiary. Than in 2009 GE and Comcast announced a NBC Universal joint venture, with 51 percent owned by Comcast and 49 percent owned by GE.[ii]

 Films

For Universal Pictures the most surprising, successful, and highest grossing movie of the year came in the form of a stuffed animal teddy bear and it wasn’t the family friendly kind either. Ted, the R-rated comedy starring Seth MacFarlane, Mark Walhberg, and Mila Kunis, became the highest grossing R-rated comedy of all time and the first to gross over $500 million in the box office.[iii] The budget for Ted is $50 million and it is also the 8th highest grossing movie of the year.[iv]  The movie becomes available to own on December 11th, just in time for the holidays.

This fall Universal Pictures saw some success with The Bourne Legacy, a re-launch of the Bourne film franchise, based off of the Robert Ludlum’s novels. Matt Damon played Jason Bourne in the first three movies which in total grossed close to half a billion dollars with each new movie grossing more than the previous one.[v] Damon did not reprise his role in The Bourne Legacy; instead Jeremy Renner took over under the character Alex Cross. The reboot made the least amount of money of the four movies earning just over $113 million in the domestic box office.[vi] The worst part is the budget for this fourth film was $125 million, the highest of any Bourne film.[vii]

Since its release on September 28th, Pitch Perfect has become the second largest earner in musical comedy history at the box office behind School of Rock.  Starting with a budget of $17 million, Pitch Perfect has grossed just over $63 million thus far.[viii] Behind the directing of Jason Moore and a strong performance by Anna Kendrick the movie was well received by critics and got an “A” CinemaScore on an A+ to F scale. The DVD and Blu-Ray will be available on December 18th.

The biggest disappointment of the fall movie season for Universal Pictures is The Man With the Iron Fists. Since its release on November 2nd, the movie has just made its budget of $15 million back as of December 4th.[ix] With names like RZA, Russell Crowe, Lucy Liu and Quentin Tarantino attached to the film the buzz leading up to the movie was high, but mixed reviews and a CinemaScore of “C+” has caused Universal to reduce the number of theaters from 1,872 to 174 in just four weeks.[x]

Universal Pictures is looking to dominate Christmas weekend, as it is the only studio releasing a movie on December 21st and Christmas Day. The first movie will feature Judd Apatow’s return to the director’s seat in the kind of sequel to Knocked Up called This is 40.  Apatow is the mind behind some of Universal’s biggest comedy hits, the for mentioned Knocked Up and The 40-Year-Old-Virgin. This is 40 stars Apatow’s wife Leslie Mann and Paul Rudd. Critics have met the movie with great reviews, its over 80% fresh on Rotten Tomatoes.

Universal Picture’s lone hope for a Best Picture Oscar is Les Miserables. The film is based on the Claude-Michel Schonberg and Alain Boublil‘s musical adaptation of Victor Hugo’s epic novel, all of which have the same title.  Acclaimed director Tom Hooper leads an ensemble cast featuring Hugh Jackman, Russell Crowe and Anne Hathaway. The cast and crew took a major risk on this project, the actors sing “live” – they taped the vocal tracks while shooting, rather than in post-production – to make the film seem more real like an opera.[xi]  Besides receiving the academies top award the film has the potential to be seen in the categories of Best Director and Best Actor.[xii]

 Other News

Universal Pictures shelled out a lot of money this fall for two scripts with big names attached to them. It started in early September when Universal outbid DreamWorks for David Guggenheim’s (the writer of Safe House) new project entitled Black Box. The deal was reported to be in the seven-figure range. [xiii] A month later Universal purchased the rights to a comedy being produced by Will Ferrell, Adam McKay, Kevin Messick and Chris Henchy.[xiv]  The biggest script news out of Universal this fall is that the company selected Kelly Marcel to adapt the highly controversial book “Fifty Shades Of Grey” into a feature film.[xv]

Universal also began a couple major marketing campaigns for some of its 2013 movie releases. In late October they released the first trailer for Despicable Me 2, the original film was a big hit, grossing $543 million worldwide in 2010 and spawned an Orlando theme park ride.[xvi]  In September the company released its first look of the comedy Identity Thief, the studio moved the release date of this movie from mid-May to February 8th.[xvii]  The trailer with the most buzz is from Jurassic Park 3D, the studio is releasing the classic April 5th.

 Finances

As of December 2nd Universal Pictures held the 4th highest market share among studios with 12.2%, the studio trails Sony, Buena Vista, and Warner Bros. Universal Pictures has grossed $1.2 billion with just 15 films produced, the least among the top four.[xviii] Since October 4th the studio has made just over $75 million.[xix] The company should reach the $100 million mark for quarter four for the sixth straight year if This is 40 and Les Miserables make their money back.[xx]  In September Universal announced that they had already surpassed its best-ever result for North American box office beating the 2008 figure of $1.127 billion.[xxi]

A subsidiary of Universal Pictures is Focus Features. Located on the Universal lot Focus Features produces and distributes its own movies that are considered more art house type films.[xxii]  Separate from Universal, Focus Features controls 1.4% of the market share so far in 2012.  The company has made $135 million from eight movies thus far.[xxiii] They have one movie currently in theaters, Anna Karenina and will be releasing two more films by years end, Hype Park on Hudson and Promised Land.[xxiv]

Universal reached a major deal with Michael Eisner’s company, Tornante, in mid-November.  Tornante will produce an unspecified number of films to be sold globally by Universal. Tornante operates a cluster of media properties, including Vuguru, a digital studio focused on making original content for platforms like Hulu and AOL, and the Topps Company, the sports card creator and marketer. Mr. Eisner has spent recent months raising money for a film production fund and would like to have a movie in the marketplace by 2015.[xxv]


[i] History http://www.nbcuni.com/film/universal-pictures/

[ii] History http://www.reuters.com/article/2009/12/03/us-nbc-comcast-timeline-idUSTRE5B22SO20091203

[iii] Ted http://www.hollywoodreporter.com/news/seth-macfarlanes-ted-crosses-500-391158

[iv] Ted http://boxofficemojo.com/movies/?id=ted.htm

[v] The Bourne Legacy http://collider.com/bourne-numbers-bourne-identity-bourne-legacy/188050/

[vi]  The Bourne Legacy http://boxofficemojo.com/franchises/chart/?id=bourne.htm

[vii] The Bourne Legacy http://boxofficemojo.com/movies/?id=bourne4.htm

[viii] Pitch Perfect http://boxofficemojo.com/movies/?id=pitchperfect.htm

[ix] The Man With the iron Fists http://boxofficemojo.com/movies/?page=main&id=manwiththeironfists.htm

[x] The Man with the Iron Fists http://www.hollywoodreporter.com/movie/man-iron-fists/review/385363

[xi] Les Miserables http://www.guardian.co.uk/film/2012/dec/06/les-miserables-review-first-look

[xii] Les Miserables http://www.indiewire.com/article/2013-oscarpredictions

[xiii] Black Box http://www.deadline.com/2012/09/universal-back-in-biz-with-safe-house-scribe-david-guggenheims-black-box/

[xiv] Will Ferrell http://www.deadline.com/2012/10/universal-acquires-threesome-pitch-for-will-ferrell-and-adam-mckays-gary-sanchez/

[xv] Fifty Shades of Grey http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/10/08/kelly-marcel-fifty-shades-of-grey-screenwriter_n_1949163.html

[xvi]  Despicable Me 2 http://www.deadline.com/2012/10/despicable-me-2-trailer-premiere-universal-steve-carell/

[xvii] Identity Thief http://www.deadline.com/2012/09/identity-thief-trailer-melissa-mccarthy-jason-bateman-universal-pictures/

[xviii] Finances http://www.boxofficemojo.com/studio/

[xix] Finances http://www.boxofficemojo.com/studio/chart/?view=company&view2=&yr=2012&timeframe=Q4&sort=&order=&studio=universal.htm

[xx] Finances http://www.boxofficemojo.com/studio/chart/?view=company&view2=ytd&compare=Q4&studio=universal.htm

[xxi] Finances http://www.deadline.com/2012/09/universal-surpasses-best-domestic-box-office-year/

[xxii] Focus Features http://focusfeatures.com/about

[xxiii] Focus Features http://www.boxofficemojo.com/studio/chart/?yr=2012&view=company&studio=focus.htm

[xxiv] Focus Features http://www.boxofficemojo.com/studio/chart/?view2=upcoming&view=company&studio=focus.htm

[xxv] Tornante http://mediadecoder.blogs.nytimes.com/2012/11/13/michael-eisner-announces-a-film-deal-with-universal/

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