Universal Pictures scored record film profits in 2017, thanks to ‘Get Out’ and ‘Fate of the Furious’

Shown is a scene from "The Fate of the Furious."
(Universal Pictures)

The Universal Pictures movie studio had its most profitable year ever in 2017, driven by major commercial hits such as “Fate of the Furious,” “Despicable Me 3” and “Get Out.”

The Universal City-based, Comcast Corp.-owned film company took in $1.28 billion in earnings, excluding interest, taxes and other factors last year, an increase of 83% from 2016, according to Comcast’s full-year earnings report released Wednesday.

Universal’s record year was powered by a multitude of profitable movies. Oscar-nominated “Get Out,” produced for less than $5 million, grossed more than $250 million in worldwide ticket sales. The latest movies in the “Despicable Me” and “Fast & Furious” series collected more than $1 billion globally.

Other successes, including M. Night Shyamalan’s “Split,” the rowdy comedy “Girls Trip” and the romantic drama “Fifty Shades Darker,” help offset the disappointment of the summer reboot “The Mummy.” Filmed entertainment revenue for the year grew 20% to $7.66 billion in 2017, Comcast said.


“We crossed $5 billion in worldwide box office for the second time in Universal’s 105-year history, driven by a wide range of theatrical releases, including key franchises like ‘Fifty Shades’ and ‘Fast & Furious,’” Comcast Chairman and Chief Executive Brian Roberts said during a call with analysts. “2017 was our film business’ most profitable year ever.”

Filmed entertainment boosted Comcast earnings during the year. The Philadelphia cable giant’s sales rose 5% to $84.5 billion for the year that ended Dec. 31. Comcast net income was $22.7 billion, or $4.75 a share, including benefits from the 2017 tax law. Adjusting for the tax break and other factors, earnings per share increased 18% to $2.06 last year.

Comcast shares were little changed in trading on Wall Street on Wednesday, after Comcast also reported fourth-quarter earnings that met analysts’ expectations. The company’s stock rose 55 cents, or 1.3%, to close at $42.99. In the last 12 months, the stock has risen more than 15%.

Roberts cautioned that Universal Pictures is not expected to surpass its film profitability record in 2018, despite major sequels, including “Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom.” The studio’s other major pictures this year include the finale of the “Fifty Shades” series, out next month, and a new “Pacific Rim.”

“While we will not beat our 2017 performance, we expect 2018 to be a solid year with some of our best franchises returning, including ‘Jurassic World’ and ‘Fifty Shades,’” Roberts said.

Twitter: @rfaughnder


1:25 p.m.: This article was updated with Comcast’s closing stock price Wednesday.

This article was originally published at 12:30 p.m.