Life is stressful. This is especially the case in today's hectic and rushed world. That's why so many people gravitate to the movies. It's an escapist activity, and regardless of what happens with the economy, people are going to seek entertainment as a way to forget about their problems for a couple of hours. While the most popular way these movies are viewed might change in the future, they will always be there.
That being the case, companies like Walt Disney (NYSE:DIS), Lions Gate Entertainment (NYSE:LGF-A), Time Warner's (NYSE:TWX.DL) Warner Bros., and Comcast's (NASDAQ:CMCSA) Universal Pictures, will always be looking to offer the most unique and intriguing productions in order to accumulate the most box office receipts to help fuel their top lines. This, in turn, helps investors.
These aren't the only companies in the fray, but they have been mentioned because they all managed to deliver movies that made the top 5 highest-grossing movies in 2013. One of these companies made the list twice, which should catch your attention. Any company capable of delivering two Top 5 movies in one year is likely capable of delivering similar results in the future.
Since this article relates to movies, let's go the suspense route and work our way down from no. 5 to no. 1.
The fifth highest-grossing movie in 2013 on a domestic basis: Man of Steel. This Warner Bros. flick grossed $291,045,518 at the domestic box office and $668,045,518 at the global box office, but unlike the other films on this list, it wasn't that well received by moviegoers. For instance, Man of Steel has an IMDb rating of 7.4 of 10 (not bad, but should be higher for the fifth-highest grossing movie of the year), a pedestrian 55% approval rating on RottenTomatoes, and a matching Metacritic score of 55%.
Information about a sequel has been revealed, and according to reports, it's going to include Superman meeting Batman (Ben Affleck) and Wonder Woman (Gal Gadot.) The movie might be titled Batman vs. Superman, but this hasn't been confirmed. It will be shot in Detroit, which is a positive since it will create jobs in a suffering city. The movie's budget is expected to be $131 million, considerably lower than the original's budget of $225 million, but this doesn't include other locations or marketing costs.
If the title of Batman vs. Superman becomes a reality, that alone should drive traffic. And if the total budget is kept below the original's, then Warner Bros. should see a tidy profit.
Disney's Frozen comes in at no. 4, grossing $297,838,000 domestically. It also grossed $639,938,000 globally. This is all based on a budget of $150 million. Frozen scored much higher on movie review sites, with an 8.1 of 10 on IMDb, 89% on RottenTomatoes, and 74% on Metacritic. More on Disney soon.
Despicable Me 2's Gru, his minions, and El Macho drove large audiences to theaters earlier this year. This highly entertaining flick was a big hit for Universal Studios, grossing $367,969,000. This was higher than many previous hits for Universal, including E.T.: The Extra-Terrestrial, Jurassic Park, Meet the Fockers, How the Grinch Stole Christmas, Jaws, and the original Despicable Me. Despicable Me 2 also grossed $918,969,000 globally. The movie's budget: only $76 million.
In 2015, the movie Minions will be released. Given the success for the franchise thus far, expect more success for Universal Studios. And some love should be given here to Illumination Entertainment, which is the ultimate company behind the franchise's success. Illumination Entertainment has an exclusive financing and distribution partnership with Universal Studios. For investors, focus on Comcast here, which owns Universal Studios.
Despicable Me 2's review site scores: 7.6 of 10 on IMDb, 75% on RottenTomatoes, and 62% on Metacritic.
Lions Gate Entertainment's The Hunger Games: Catching Fire grossed $407,488,000 domestically and $830,888,000 globally, all on a budget of $130 million. The Hunger Games: Catching Fire has scored well on movie review sites: 8.1 of 10 on IMDb, 89% on RottenTomatoes, and 75% on Metacritic. In other words, if you haven't seen it yet, the odds are good you will enjoy it.
The biggest selling point for Lions Gate Entertainment is that two more "Hunger Games" installments are due out over the next two years. Therefore, Lions Gate Entertainment should continue to print money.
Marvel Studios' Iron Man 3 takes the top spot, grossing $409,488,000 domestically and a whopping $1,215,439,994 globally, all based on a budget of $200 million. Of course, Marvel Studios is owned by Disney. This is yet another example of the power of Disney. Iron Man 3's review site scores: 7.4 of 10 on IMDb, 78% on RottenTomatoes, and 62% on Metacritic.
Since Iron Man 3 performed so well, an Iron Man 4 is likely, though not definite. If it does become a reality, then you should expect more enormous revenue generation for Disney.
According to rumors, Robert Downey Jr. and Marvel aren't in agreement on payment for Iron Man 4 yet. Robert Downey Jr. is also rumored to be going to bat for Mel Gibson and Jodie Foster, wanting them to join the Avengers universe. This isn't likely, but it's an interesting story to keep an eye on. Regardless, Marvel should continue its strong run, which is a boon for Disney investors.
The Foolish takeaway
Four of the five movie brands mentioned above have future potential. Despite no sequel for Frozen having been discussed, Disney still owns Marvel, and it continues to pump out hit after hit. It would be difficult to go wrong with any of the companies mentioned above, but in my opinion, Disney is the best of the best.