How the studios stack up
While media titans splurge to merge their conglomerates, Hollywood’s movie moguls are ratcheting up the stakes of their game, spending more to seduce top talent. Here’s how we think the big eight studios rate, based on current market share, management, and what’s in the pipeline:
Last year: 2. Animation and lot producers Simpson & Bruckheimer delivered big time (Pocahontas, Crimson Tide, Dangerous Minds). Promising: Joe Roth’s live-action slate, fueled by star-driven product. Threatening: A musical Hunchback of Notre Dame could be even more of a marketing challenge than Pocahontas.
2. Warner Bros.
Last year: 1. The industry’s busiest studio churns out more blue-ribbon winners (Batman Forever, The Bridges of Madison County) — and resounding flops (Cobb, Murder in the First) — than anyone else. Promising: Jan De Bont’s Twister; Schwarzenegger’s Eraser; another John Grisham thriller. Threatening: Attempts to create new franchises with Free Willy and Under Siege didn’t take.
Last year: 4. New management scored $100 million hits (Apollo 13 and Casper) while old owner Matsushita got stuck with the Waterworld bill. Promising: Prez Ron Meyer can rely on high-octane product from Ron Howard’s Imagine, existing projects from Steven Spielberg’s Amblin, and the DreamWorks team. Threatening: Too many studio neophytes in Meyer’s inner circle.
Last year: 3. Lacking a $329 million Forrest Gump engine, the studio slipped even though it marketed the heck out of its middleweight vehicles, from Congo to Clueless. Promising: Michael Douglas’ 12-picture deal; the Jodie Foster-directed Home for the Holidays. Threatening: If the $50 million Sabrina and the $65 million Mission: Impossible don’t work, it’ll hurt.
Last year: 7. After getting tarred for big-budget excess in ’94, Sony’s sister studios rebounded with more modestly budgeted hits. Promising: The Robin Williams fantasy Jumanji; Jim Carrey’s The Cable Guy. Threatening: Lingering rumors of management change nag studio chairman Mark Canton.
6. Twentieth Century Fox
Last year: 5. Building its arsenal, Fox delivered some hits (Die Hard With a Vengeance, Nine Months) but isn’t yet in high gear. Promising: Big-ticket items like Keanu Reeves’ Dead Drop; signing producer Arnold Kopelson (The Fugitive, Seven) for 1997. Threatening: Multiple ambitions — art films, family movies, and mainstream fare — could make for some roller-coaster seasons.
7. New Line Cinema
Last year: 6. Still playing to urban crowds with low-budget hits like Friday while reaching wider with winners like Seven. Promising: Julia Roberts and Meg Ryan in The Women; the Bruce Willis actioner Welcome to Jericho. Threatening: Bigger budgets will bring bigger risks.
Last year: 8. Credit goes to chairman Frank Mancuso for getting the ailing studio humming again (Goldeneye, Species). Promising: Robin Williams in The Birdcage. Threatening: Only a matter of time before Credit Lyonnais unloads the company.