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Disney And Universal Bask In The Glow Of Summer Box Office Sales


Here's some news. People are spending more money at the movies. We've talked plenty on this program about the decline of theaters. People have bigger screens and better streaming at home. Studios were not doing so well a few years ago. But now they have "Jurassic World."


NICK ROBINSON: (As Zach) We're going to have to jump.

TY SIMPKINS: (As Gray) I can't.

ROBINSON: (As Zach) Are you ready? One, two...

INSKEEP: Universal Pictures took that leap and made a lot of money, as it has with multiple films this summer. Let's talk about this with Kim Masters, editor-at-large for the Hollywood Reporter. What's happening here?

KIM MASTERS: It's a good summer if you're Universal or Disney. "Jurassic World" pulled in $640 million domestically, and foreign - which is increasingly important - $983 million, almost a billion dollars overseas. So you see these franchises. "Jurassic World," you know, there were three. It kind of went away for the better part of 15 years. Universal brought it back - gigantic, gigantic numbers. And the other big winner is Disney. Of course, they have "Avengers: Age Of Ultron." That's the Marvel franchises. They perform brilliantly. Again, performing almost double overseas what they did domestically. So those are huge. And they have Pixar, "Inside Out," another huge hit, very original, refreshingly. So we're seeing Disney and Universal prospering and the other studios not doing so well.

INSKEEP: This is interesting though. The people who are succeeding are doing it in classic, old-time studio style. Grab a series. Grab a franchise. Have repeating characters, and just beat that into the ground.

MASTERS: That has more or less been what has happened - "Mission Impossible 5," one of the few bright spots for Paramount. Yes, that's become the mantra of the studios. Whether there's going to be comic book fatigue is something that a lot of people watch nervously. And, you know, bringing back old stuff doesn't always work. One of the biggest bombs of summer is "Fantastic Four." And it was a spectacular flop.

INSKEEP: Somebody mentioned to me that there was a sequel to "Ted." I wasn't even aware that...

MASTERS: (Laughter) That was one of Universal's few misses this summer. So yes, it doesn't always work. That's the thing that makes everybody crazy in the movie business. Things that seemingly should work don't. Things that seem like total curveballs do.

INSKEEP: OK, so some of the studios have had an awfully profitable summer. What does this change in movie attendance, movie spending, suggest about the long term future of the media and entertainment industry?

MASTERS: Well, you know, it doesn't say that things are great, Steve. And the reason is that the movie business is not such an important part for big media companies. TV, cable, that has been where the gold is. And that right now is where there's a certain amount of panic on Wall Street.

INSKEEP: What do you mean?

MASTERS: Well, even before China became such a big problem, as it has been in recent days, Disney sort of kicked off this fear by saying that the growth of ESPN, which has been a mighty, mighty engine, might be not so great as it always has been. And suddenly, media stocks across the board got pulverized. I mean, Viacom off 30 percent, Disney off 18 percent, even with those hits we talked about from Disney, "Avengers" and "Inside Out." So what is happening now? There's been a longtime concerned about how people are going to watch TV. Is it going to be the old broadcast model with commercials? Is it going to be streaming, like Netflix? And Wall Street has finally sort of gotten that memo in a huge way. And they're just fleeing from media stocks. And even as our market may rebound, the media stocks don't look so good.

INSKEEP: Kim Masters, thanks, as always.

MASTERS: Thank you, Steve.

INSKEEP: She's editor-at-large for the Hollywood Reporter and also host of The Business on KCRW. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.