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Report Card 2011: With Biggest ‘Potter’ Yet, Warner Just Shy of Its Record 2010

Studio’s 2011 performance won’t match the $4.81B benchmark it set for itself last year

(First in a series of Studio Report Cards from TheWrap)

Also read:

PARAMOUNT: Studio Set to Grab the Global B.O. Crown Following Huge Year
SONY: Studio Bats for Solid Average
FOX: Low Risk, Low Reward for Fox
UNIVERSAL: Studio rebounded, But Still Had Too Many Misses
DISNEY: Studio moved to Cut Cost With Fewer Films


Grade: B

It’s tough to criticize a year that included a $1.33 billion global box-office performance by the final “Harry Potter” movie, not to mention a $581.5 million worldwide gross by an R-rated comedy, “The Hangover Part II.” But Warner’s inability to turn “Green Lantern” into a much-needed new multi-hit franchise impacted its grade.

Despite boasting two of the biggest titles of the year in “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows – Part 2” and “The Hangover Part II,” Warner Bros. will finish 2011 narrowly down in global box-office revenue, falling second to Paramount in market share.

Warner Brothers, despite a strong box office performance, will fall short of the $1.88 billion it brought in domestically last year, even if the last tentpole on its 2011 calendar, “Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows,” manages to match the $209 million domestic box office of the original Robert Downey Jr. film.

(The studio had grossed $1.65 billion in U.S. and Canadian box office receipts through Sunday.)

That's not to say it didn't have hits in 2011.

With Jeff Robinov taking over as studio president for Alan Horn earlier in the year, “Potter” went out with a bang, becoming the first movie in the eight-film franchise to break the billion-dollar barrier.

And the second “Hangover” became the most commercially successful R-rated comedy ever, grossing $581.5 million globally.

Also read: Report Card 2010: Big Year Abroad Drives Record Revenue for Warner Bros.

“We had hoped that the movie would be successful, based on how much people really enjoyed being with the guys the first time around,” Robinov told TheWrap. "[Director] Todd Phillips is the best comedy guy out there.”

With an estimated $2.67 billion in foreign receipts through Sunday, Warner's will also not quite reach the $2.93 billion it brought in internationally last year, not to mention its industry-leading $4.81 billion global total in 2010.

But that is not terribly surprising in a film market where attendance is down by 5 percent, and revenue has shrunk by about 4 percent. Many are calling 2011's slate one of the weakest Hollywood has offered the multiplex in years. 

The studio — which released 26 films in 2011, just one shy of 2010’s 27 — couldn't match its 2010 flurry of hits, which included "Inception," "Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows — Part 1," "Clash of the Titans" and "Valentine's Day."

But beyond franchises, there were sleeper hits, such as the ensemble comedy “Horrible Bosses,” which grossed $209.6 million on a $35 million budget.

Overall filmed entertainment, meanwhile, has performed well this year on the Time Warner balance sheets.

While elsewhere home entertainment is down by double digits yet again, last year’s penultimate “Harry Potter” movie pushed the conglomerate’s revenue up 13 percent in the second quarter, and DVD and VOD sales of the final “Potter” will certainly give the company a huge boost in Q4.

But this year was also partly about what happens after “Harry Potter” in terms of multi-hit franchises.

Warner's officials note the anticipation of Christopher Nolan’s final “Dark Knight” installment, which comes out in July, as well as its Zack Snyder-led “Superman” reboot,” “Man of Steel,” which is on the 2013 calendar.

The studio, however, missed in its attempt to develop a new hit superhero franchise, with the $200 million “Green Lantern” generating only $219.9 million worldwide.

And some of the studio’s existing franchises stumbled: “Happy Feet Two,” for example, has failed to re-create the South Pole magic of the Oscar-winning original, grossing just $106 million to date on a production cost of $100 million.

And the always-reliable “Final Destination,” while still profitable, showed decline in 2011, with the franchise’s fifth movie ($157.9 million in global receipts) falling a bit short of 2010’s fourth installment, “The Final Destination” ($186.2 million).