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Studio distribution heads assess 2014 box office, look ahead to 2015

Studio distribution heads reflect on their biggest surprise hits and 2014 as a whole, and look ahead to 2015

It wasn't a blockbuster year for the box office. The 2014 total in movie ticket sales is expected to reach about $10.4 billion, down about 5% from last year's record of $10.9 billion.

There were a few highlights, however. A fruitful holiday weekend helped boost the end-of-the-year total as moviegoers flocked to theaters to see the third installment of the "Hobbit" franchise, Disney's "Into the Woods" and the Angelina Jolie directed film "Unbroken."

Additionally, amid the box-office misses, there were several surprise hits such as "Guardians of the Galaxy" and "The Lego Movie."

The Times asked several studio distribution heads to reflect on their biggest surprise hits, the year as a whole and what they are looking forward to most at the 2015 box office:

Chris Aronson, Twentieth Century Fox

Best box-office surprise for the studio:

"Most likely 'The Fault in Our Stars.' [It had] a $12-million budget, grossed $125 million and was an incredibly rewarding emotional movie that went well beyond the core audience."

Summarizing the year at the box office:

"We grossed $1.79 billion, the biggest domestic year in the history of the company. [We had] eight films that grossed more than $100 million. While the industry as a whole is down about 5% from last year, Twentieth Century Fox is up 69% from last year -- a remarkable result."

What you're looking forward to most about 2015:

Having the industry reverse the declining attendance curve.

--

Dave Hollis, Disney

Best box-office surprise for the studio:

"'Guardians of the Galaxy,' of course. It is finishing as the biggest film of the year and we launched a franchise. It also [showed] the ability to launch a big movie in a less conventional period on the calendar."

Summarizing the year at the box office:

"It was one of our strongest years ever. We had success happening from a variety of different hubs. Marvel's success obviously continued with 'Guardians' and 'Captain America.' We are also obviously still enjoying Disney's animation 'Big Hero 6,' a follow-up to 'Frozen.'"

What you're looking forward to most about 2015:

"Each of our production engines are running at full steam with confidence and momentum as we walk into next year. We have some big projects including an 'Avengers' sequel, 'Star Wars,' 'Cinderella,' 'Tomorrowland' and a Pixar film. There are a lot of reasons to be optimistic about what should be our biggest year."

--

Dan Fellman, Warner Bros.

Best box-office surprise for the studio:

"'The Lego Movie' jumped right out of the year. It was an early win for us. You can't beat that. We loved watching the film develop from early pencil drawings into a final movie."

Summarizing the year at the box office:

"We are going to end the year in third place.... From the domestic side it would have been nice to move up a little but I think, overall, we came out in great shape."

What you're looking forward to most about 2015:

"We're excited about the wide release of 'American Sniper' in January.... We have a lot of great products lined up."

-- 

Nikki Rocco, Universal

Best box-office surprise for the studio:

"We didn't have to have a lot of high-budget films to have our most profitable year."

Summarizing the year at the box office:

"[We had] dedication, fortitude and an incredible group of people -- it's been an amazing year. I look to 2014 as a reminder that if you have the strength, you can do it -- whether or not you have high-budgeted films in the mix."

What you're looking forward to most about 2015:*

"There are too many things to talk about -- I can't pick one."

*Rocco retired at the end of 2014. She is now a senior advisor to the studio. Nicholas Carpou was set to succeed Rocco on Jan. 1.

-- 

Rory Bruer, Sony

Best box-office surprise for the studio:

"The best box-office surprise for the studio last year was the $91-million domestic earned by 'Heaven is For Real.' We are big believers in the faith-based audience and we've seen them come out and support great entertainment, but that was beyond anything we could have dreamed for this $12-million film. It's always gratifying to see a film connect with audiences in that way."

Summarizing the year at the box office:

"Sony had great successes in 2014. We showed the strength of 'Spider-Man' and the popularity of the character all around the world.... We took the 'Jump Street' series to the next level. And despite the challenges, we didn't miss a beat with the success of "Annie," our moderately budgeted family film."

What you're looking forward to most about 2015:

"In 2015, we have a number of titles that we think are some of the most highly anticipated from any studio. 'Pixels,' our big event summer movie, is going to be a lot of fun for audiences worldwide of all ages.... We and everyone wants to see what Sam Mendes has up his sleeve for James Bond in 'Spectre' after leading 007 to the billion-dollar club."

-- 

Megan Colligan, Paramount

Best box-office surprise for the studio:

"'Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles' was a huge hit for us. It was one of our biggest wins and the thing we are probably most excited about as it relates to our future."

Summarizing the year at the box office:

"It was a really fun year -- we had a lot of challenging movies but it was a great experience because we got to work with some of the best of the best."

What you're looking forward to most about 2015:

"'Terminator' is something we are really looking forward to. We're probably going to spend all our time thinking about it. It opens July 1."

For more news on the entertainment industry, follow me @saba_h

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