EXCLUSIVE: Paramount becomes fastest-ever to $1B domestic; DreamWorks 'Transforms' Paramount into Hollywood's hottest studio
by Steve Mason
Sometime on Monday, Paramount Pictures passed $1 billion in domestic ticket sales for 2007. My sources tell me that July 9 is the earliest that any studio has ever topped the billion dollar mark.
The great news doesn't stop there. Sometime this weekend, Paramount will surpass $1.046 billion for the year, breaking its all-time single-year record, set in 1998. The James Cameron mega-hit Titanic was the driving force behind that '98 Paramount campaign accounting for about 50 percent of the total take. 2007 is a completely different story with hit after hit this year from the Melrose Avenue gang.
The truth is that the legendary Hollywood name has, in recent years, been a perennial laggard amongst its fellow studios. From 2002-2006, Paramount had an average rank of No. 6 among Hollywood's major studios, with an average annual haul of $747 million domestic. That means that Paramount is already 25 percent over its five-year annual domestic average -- and it's not even the middle of July!
What has caused this monstrous shift in studio power? Half the credit goes to the DreamWorks troika of Spielberg, Katzenberg and Geffen. The rest goes to Brad Grey and Sumner Redstone for successfully stealing Dreamworks right out from under Universal's noses back in December of 2005.
When the S, K and G of Dreamworks began shopping the studio, Universal was the logical destination, given that Spielberg had always called it home. A funny thing happened on the way to Universal City, however. General Electric screwed up what should have been an easy deal. As David Geffen reportedly said, "Dealing with G.E. is unpleasant and difficult under any circumstances," but the Universal parent company had made the mistake of assuming that "we had no choice, and they were going to squeeze us and squeeze us. After a year of dealing with them they still did not have a finished contract ready to sign."
As the DreamWorks moguls lost patience with Universal, Brad Grey gradually won over Viacom chief Sumner Redstone, then swooped in with a few more dollars and a lot less hassle. Grey himself reportedly showed up at Spielberg's house with contracts ready for signature, and three of Hollywood's all-time most creative minds became part of Paramount. If Grey and Redstone hadn't aggressively pursued, negotiated and finalized the Dreamworks deal, Universal would be the studio quickest-ever to a billion today instead of Paramount.
Paramount's incredible half-year has been powered by movies from the DreamWorks creative pipeline. As of today (July 9), here are where the biggest chunks of that magical billion are coming from:
1. Shrek the Third -- $316.7 million
2. Transformers -- $155.4 million
3. Blades of Glory -- $118.1 million
4. Norbit -- $95.3 million
5. Disturbia -- $79.3 million
6. Dreamgirls -- $66.3 million (the remainder of its $103.3 million was earned in 2006)
7. Shooter -- $47 million
8. Freedom Writers -- $36.6 million
9. Zodiac -- $33 million
10. Charlotte's Web -- $30 million (the remainder of its $82.6 million was earned in 2006)
Amazingly, the top six films are all from DreamWorks. On that December day when Spielberg, Katzenberg and Geffen signed on Grey's dotted line, the balance of power in Hollywood likely was shifted for many years to come.