Now other studios are adopting the Fox model, notably Disney, this year's Report Card leader. Blessed with the most respected brand in the business, Disney is now less of a film division and more of a family entertainment company. Of the 11 movies it released in 2007, eight were Disney label movies, allowing the company to remain relentlessly focused on its brand. By releasing so few films, Disney was able to make more high-quality films by putting extra time into solving script, production and marketing issues than competitors like Sony and Warner Bros., who roll out more than 20 a year.
"We're probably in a different business than our brother and sister companies," says Disney studio chief Dick Cook. "We've learned that it's not how many you do but how good they are. If you only make 11 movies a year, you're not putting your movies through a meat grinder; you can be very specific about quality. That way, if we do stumble, and I'm sure we will, it will be because we were pushing the envelope instead of not keeping our eye on the ball."
What follows is my 2007 Studio Report Card with three grades: first for box office and profitability, second for film quality, third for overall success. (The grades don't include specialty division films, which are run as a separate business; as for the writers strike, it didn't hit the movie business in 2007 -- this year could be a different story.) Disney
The studio has always had the industry's best brand, but never has it been more opportunistic about exploiting its strengths. Under Cook's leadership, the studio has expanded the Disney nameplate to include everything from sports comedies ("Game Plan") to Jerry Bruckheimer extravaganzas ("National Treasure: Book of Secrets"). The studio production cutback had its skeptics -- myself included -- but Disney had four of the year's 15 top-grossing films, led by a "Pirates of the Caribbean" sequel that made nearly $1 billion worldwide. In part because it released so few films, it generally kept quality high, earning critical accolades with Pixar's "Ratatouille" and "Enchanted," made by Kevin Lima, who's been at Disney as an animator and director for 20 years. Performance: