Disney dominates—again—as shuffling suits, surprise successes, and superstar slip-ups rocked the Hollywood rankings

By EW Staff
February 04, 2000 at 05:00 AM EST

1 BUENA VISTA 1999 MARKET SHARE 17% THE YEAR IN REVIEW The Mouse didn’t just roar — it devoured the competition. With the help of The Sixth Sense, Toy Story 2, and Tarzan, Disney racked up $1.24 billion in ’99, taking first place for the fifth year out of the last six. Also, after ’98’s Beloved failure, the studio finally mustered serious Oscar contenders with The Insider and The Straight Story. On the other hand, Bicentennial Man fizzled, the stock tumbled, former chief Jeffrey Katzenberg got an estimated $250 million-plus settlement, and chairman Joe Roth, who forged Disney’s relationships with stars like Bruce Willis and Julia Roberts, resigned. NEW YEAR’S RESOLUTION Placate antsy shareholders, and never make anything like The Other Sister again. HIGH HOPES Mission to Mars could be an Armageddon-style smash; Nicolas Cage and producer Jerry Bruckheimer reteam for the summer action flick Gone in 60 Seconds. TROUBLE SPOTS The computer-animated Dinosaur cost (gulp) as much as $200 million. And Roth’s departure hurts. His replacement, ‘toon whiz Peter Schneider, needs to prove he’s as potent in three dimensions as he is in two.

2 WARNER BROS. 1999 MARKET SHARE 14.2% THE YEAR IN REVIEW Bread to start, with ’98’s You’ve Got Mail spilling over and Analyze This and The Matrix greening the spring, and bread to finish, with a fall animated by Pokemon and a Christmas cheered by Any Given Sunday and The Green Mile. But there was some bad turkey in between, notably Wild Wild West and Eyes Wide Shut. Shortly before Shut‘s release, longtime chiefs Bob Daly and Terry Semel stunned the industry by announcing their resignations. NEW YEAR’S RESOLUTION To usher in the Barry Meyer era with quality hits at below-bloat budgets. HIGH HOPES George Clooney in The Perfect Storm; Pay It Forward, starring Kevin Spacey and Helen Hunt, could bait Oscar; teen thriller Gossip has spring sleeper buzz. TROUBLE SPOTS Beyond Pokemon 2, few sure things, and have you caught that teaser for Battlefield Earth?

3 UNIVERSAL 1999 MARKET SHARE 12.7% THE YEAR IN REVIEW After putting ’98 to rest with the grim reaper Meet Joe Black, Universal found resurrection in The Mummy. While the studio went wrong with middle-aged fare (For Love of the Game, The Story of Us), it got orgasmic returns from the low-budget teen-sex comedy American Pie and attracted romantics with Julia Roberts’ Notting Hill. NEW YEAR’S RESOLUTION No more management changes: Last year, president Chris McGurk left for MGM; no sooner were Stacey Snider and Brian Mulligan promoted to co-chairs than Mulligan became CFO of parent company Seagram. HIGH HOPES Universal’s got a fighting Oscar chance with The Hurricane, and possible box office gold in Dr. Seuss’ How the Grinch Stole Christmas and Nutty 2: The Klumps. TROUBLE SPOTS A heavy reliance on cartoony fare (Grinch, The Adventures of Rocky and Bullwinkle, The Flintstones in Viva Rock Vegas) is a risk; didn’t they learn from Mystery Men and Dudley Do-Right? Should audience tastes shift toward grown-up fare, Universal could be looking at another year like 1998.

4 PARAMOUNT 1999 MARKET SHARE 11.6% THE YEAR IN REVIEW Chief Sherry Lansing has said she’d rather own part of a hit than all of a dud, a pro-coproduction philosophy that has paid off on the studio’s biggest grosser (Runaway Bride, done with Disney), strongest critical darling (South Park: Bigger, Longer & Uncut, a Warner co-venture), and shiniest Oscar hopeful (The Talented Mr. Ripley, coproduced by Miramax); it also softened the thuds made by Bringing Out the Dead (blame Disney!) and Angela’s Ashes (blame Universal!). Meanwhile, Paramount owned outright surprise hits The General’s Daughter and Double Jeopardy. NEW YEAR’S RESOLUTION Find new franchises, since the Star Trek universe is fading; make more Saturday Night Live-derived cheapies to follow profitable Superstar (this fall it’s Tim Meadows in Ladies Man).HIGH HOPES The very expensive Mission: Impossible 2, not to mention a Rugrats sequel, a Shaft update, and Mel Gibson in What Women Want (possibly ready by Christmas). TROUBLE SPOTS Half the investment means half the profits; the Mission franchise depends so much on handing Tom Cruise big checks that it’s hardly a cash cow.

5 20TH CENTURY FOX 1999 MARKET SHARE 10.8% THE YEAR IN REVIEW With a $431 million haul, Star Wars: Episode I — The Phantom Menace was the center of the universe last year, though George Lucas wound up pocketing most of the change. The rest of Fox’s slate was flatter than Jake Lloyd’s acting. While Entrapment ($87.7 million) and Never Been Kissed ($55.5 million) weren’t exactly blockbusters, they seemed like Titanics next to the likes of Pushing Tin ($8.4 million) and Ravenous ($2.1 million). And all those bus and bench ads couldn’t save Fight Club and Anna and the King. NEW YEAR’S RESOLUTION To forget last year’s resolutions. HIGH HOPES Leo goes shirtless on The Beach, Jim Carrey works double time in Me, Myself, and Irene, and Tom Hanks gets stranded in Cast Away (on which Fox will split revenues with DreamWorks). X-Men could launch a new franchise, and Nicole Kidman’s Moulin Rouge promises to reinvent the musical. TROUBLE SPOTS Despite all the fuss over The Beach, people who’ve seen early screenings have been kicking sand in its face.

6 SONY 1999 MARKET SHARE 8.6% THE YEAR IN REVIEW If it weren’t for a certain mouse (Stuart Little) and a certain louse (Adam Sandler in Big Daddy), studio head John Calley & Co. might be committing hara-kiri right now. What went wrong? Well, the stars didn’t shine (Michelle Pfeiffer’s The Deep End of the Ocean, Robin Williams’ Jakob the Liar, and Harrison Ford’s Random Hearts); the event movies weren’t very eventful (The Messenger: The Story of Joan of Arc); and the teen bandwagon stalled (Jawbreaker, Go, Dick). NEW YEAR’S RESOLUTION Get moving on those Men in Black, Jumanji, and Stuart Little sequels! HIGH HOPES That Matt Damon will ride roughshod over All the Pretty Horses; that Dean Devlin and Roland Emmerich’s The Patriot will be more Independence Day than Godzilla; and that Charlie’s Angels will turn jiggle TV into jiggy box office. TROUBLE SPOTS What’s the point of blowing a ton of cash on E-ticket rides like The Hollow Man and The Vertical Limit if you can’t spend some bucks on stars bigger than Kevin Bacon and Chris O’Donnell?

7 DREAMWORKS SKG 1999 MARKET SHARE 4.4% THE YEAR IN REVIEW It started with a whimper (as DreamWorks execs watched Saving Private Ryan lose Best Picture to Shakespeare in Love on Oscar night, and endured the failures of In Dreams and The Love Letter). But the year picked up with the successful (though critically lambasted) The Haunting and American Beauty‘s unlikely home run. NEW YEAR’S RESOLUTION No more marketing glitches (crowd-pleasing Galaxy Quest should’ve opened more strongly). HIGH HOPES If anybody beats Beauty‘s Kevin Spacey for Best Actor, DreamWorks hopes it’s Russell Crowe, who’s carrying the studio’s costly summer hopeful Gladiator. And in this year’s Haunting slot: Harrison Ford and Michelle Pfeiffer in Robert Zemeckis’ spooky What Lies Beneath. TROUBLE SPOTS If Steven Spielberg and Tom Cruise can’t pull off the sci-fi Minority Report (like What Lies Beneath, a co-venture with Fox), it’s gonna sting.

8 MIRAMAX 1999 MARKET SHARE 4.3% THE YEAR IN REVIEW If Miramax were a character out of Greek mythology, it would be Icarus, that guy who flew high enough to feel the warm rays of the sun — and then got burned and came whirling back to earth. The Weinstein brothers topped off the ’90s in the glow of Oscar with Shakespeare in Love snatching Best Picture from Private Ryan. Yet just as Miramax was dusting off its throne, new indie renegades like USA Films and Artisan swooped in: Passing on The Blair Witch Project at Sundance, Miramax instead got excited over Happy, Texas. Ouch. NEW YEAR’S RESOLUTION Try to remember how they got all that attention in the first place. HIGH HOPES The big-studio-style thrills of Reindeer Games, starring Ben Affleck and Charlize Theron. TROUBLE SPOTS More ”hip” Shakespeares — updates of Hamlet and Othello (titled O), and Kenneth Branagh’s Love’s Labour’s Lost — along with Scream 3 and the Scream spoof Scary Movie, suggest that the erstwhile mavericks may be stuck in a rut. Didn’t Mrs. Tingle teach them anything?

9 (tie) MGM 1999 MARKET SHARE 4.2% THE YEAR IN REVIEW A tuxedoed Pierce Brosnan dressed up MGM’s bottom line in more ways than one. The World Is Not Enough has grossed $303 million worldwide and become one of 007’s biggest hits, while the actor’s other dapper thriller, The Thomas Crown Affair, has grossed $122 million. Sure, the studio had some stinkers — The Mod Squad, One Man’s Hero, and the imploding Supernova (a problem through its release this year) — but new management and savvy dealmaking (paying a reported $2.5 million for the domestic rights to Tea With Mussolini, which has grossed $14 million) helped raise its market share (and boost its stock). NEW YEAR’S RESOLUTION It’d be nice if a film from the newly indie-ish UA division won something at Sundance. HIGH HOPES Return to Me, a romantic comedy starring David Duchovny and Minnie Driver, is supposedly the studio’s best-testing picture since The Birdcage. And don’t underestimate Richard Gere’s affair with Winona Ryder (as a terminally ill woman) in Autumn in New York. TROUBLE SPOTS Bond has the next few years off, so that tuxedo won’t be much help.

9 (tie) NEW LINE 1999 MARKET SHARE 4.2% THE YEAR IN REVIEW The frisky $205 million performance of Austin Powers: The Spy Who Shagged Me gave a much-needed boost to New Line’s otherwise limp take, with the sequel becoming the studio’s top-grossing film ever. But aside from Magnolia, the remainder of the ’99 slate all but self-destructed. Consider The Astronaut’s Wife, Drop Dead Gorgeous, Dog Park, and Body Shots. Or, like last year’s moviegoers, don’t. NEW YEAR’S RESOLUTION To put to work the deals made in ’99 with talent such as David Fincher and Ben Stiller — and decide what to do with the perpetually postponed Warren Beatty budget buster Town and Country and the bad-buzz Winona Ryder thriller Lost Souls. HIGH HOPES The modest 2000 roster features a host of hot names — Jennifer Lopez, Vince Vaughn — and one sure thing, Adam Sandler’s Little Nicky. The Lord of the Rings trilogy is New Line’s most ambitious project ever… TROUBLE SPOTS …with a reported $130 million plus invested in a director (Peter Jackson) whose biggest film (The Frighteners) has grossed only $17 million.

11 ARTISAN 1999 MARKET SHARE 2.6% THE YEAR IN REVIEW Four words: The Blair Witch Project. The year’s biggest surprise grossed $140.5 million to become the top indie film ever — not bad for a $100,000 movie the company acquired for $1 million. Supported by a massive 8,700-title video library, and with a potentially lucrative IPO in the offing, Artisan also managed potential Oscar contenders with Buena Vista Social Club and The Limey. But there were too many movies that no one saw (Felicia’s Journey, The Minus Man, Illuminata), and the ghostly Stir of Echoes seemed awfully familiar. NEW YEAR’S RESOLUTION Keep the momentum going — Hollywood is littered with the rotting corpses of indie flavors-of-the-year. HIGH HOPES President Amir Malin’s great relationships with talent have helped execs construct a promising 2000 schedule, including flicks from prestige directors Roman Polanski, Wayne Wang, Jim Jarmusch, John Waters, Alexander Payne, and Darren Aronofsky. Oh yeah, and the Blair Witch follow-up. TROUBLE SPOTS IPOs are as risky as overhyped sequels — watch out for both.