It Was A 1B Holiday Film Season

    GRAND RAPIDS — The film industry did over $1 billion worth of business over the last two months of the year.

    Ticket sales reached $1.098 billion for the last nine weeks of the year, making the period the third highest revenue-grossing holiday season in movie history. Only those in 2001 and 2002 had bigger holiday returns.

    “The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King” pushed the 2003 holiday season over the billion-dollar mark, as the third film in the trilogy grossed nearly $292 million over the last two weeks of December. The fantasy also played a major role in quite possibly making Christmas Day 2003 the top-grossing Christmas ever.

    “Rings,” “Cheaper by the Dozen” and “Paycheck,” respectively, ranked first, ninth, and 15th for all-time top Christmas Day grosses. The trio sold tickets worth $26.9 million on Dec. 25 alone, with “Rings” ringing in nearly $14 million of that amount.

    According to, domestic grosses for 2003 reached $9.183 billion — slightly higher than the $9.167 billion the industry totaled in 2002. The average ticket price across the nation last year was $6.03, up from $5.81 in 2002.

    “Finding Nemo,” which surfaced on Memorial Day weekend, hung on to become the top-grossing film of last year with a total of $339.7 million. Only one other movie went over the $300 million-mark for the year; “Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl” raked in $305.4 million.

    Disney, which distributed both “Nemo” and “Pirates,” ended 2003 as the top-grossing studio of the year. Disney earned $1.521 billion from just 19 films, good enough for a market share of 16.6 percent. Sony, Warner Brothers, Universal and New Line filled out the top five and captured $5.89 billion from ticket sales, or 63.4 percent of the industry’s domestic gross.

    Jack Loeks Theatres Inc. also captured a healthy share of local ticket sales at Studio 28, Cinema Carousel and Celebration Cinema over the holiday.

    “We saw a very successful conclusion to the year in motion picture theaters, with business being generally up across the circuit. Different theaters had different amounts depending on competitive conditions, but basically we saw a nice uptrend,” said John Loeks Jr., president and CEO of Jack Loeks Theatres Inc.

    Loeks said “Rings” pumped up box office receipts for the last few weeks of the year and that the film continued to be a draw early into the New Year. He added that “Young Black Stallion” turned into a strong performer for the IMAX screen at Celebration Cinema.

    “We did almost sell-out business during the holiday season,” said Loeks. “The first few days of this year, during the end of that vacation break, were above last year. We believe we’ve gotten off to a good start in the first few days of January for the next year.”  

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