×

2009's Box Office Winners

In 2009 the box office was remarkably robust, despite concerns about the pullback in consumer spending and competition with sophisticated home entertainment systems.

People still like going to the movies. No matter what the economic environment, they want and need that communal entertainment experience. The box office hit new highs, over $10.5 billion dollars, and it wasn't because of higher ticket prices: this year 125,000 more tickets were sold in the U.S. than last year.

The advertising market is suffering: down 10 percent world-wide, down 13 percent in the U.S., expected to grow just 1 percent next year globally, while the U.S. ad market is expected to drop another 2.6 percent.

The DVD market may continue to suffer, but the box office is certainly one ray of light in the dark and obscure future of the media business. The domestic box office racked up a whopping $500 million in ticket sales the last week of the year alone! And I'd say this New Year's Eve, it's worth celebrating.

Warner Brothers won the year with nearly 20 percent of domestic market share, projecting a $2.99 billion domestic gross. Time Warner benefited from its other studio, New Line, being rolled into Warner Brothers, giving it 36 films in the market this year, including a "Harry Potter" sequel and the recent "Sherlock Holmes."

Viacom's Paramount boasts triumphs on both ends of the spectrum. "Transformers 2: Revenge of the Fallen" remains the biggest film of the year with an $835 million global take. No-budget "Paranormal Activity" was a phenomenon, grossing $107 million in the U.S. alone, thanks in part to an innovative, interactive web marketing campaign. And Paramount's number two market share this year was done without Steven Spielberg's DreamWorks Studio. Going into 2010, "Iron Man 2," which Paramount is distributing, is on track to be the biggest film of the year.

20th Century Fox certainly won the holiday season. "Avatar" is living up to expectations; it's grossed over $800 million worldwide, and it continues to draw moviegoers at a more robust rate than most big-budget films so many weeks after their release. The studio also released "Alvin and the Chipmunks: The Squeakquel," which has grossed nearly $170 million since its December 23 release.

The independent film business has struggled this year as studios have shuttered their specialty film divisions, making it harder for indie filmmakers to find broad distribution for their movies. At the same time, any one can distribute their film online, and perhaps new models (direct to video-on-demand?) will evolve in the new decade.

Questions? Comments? MediaMoney@cnbc.com