Social media, upgraded theaters help drive $11-B year
(Associated Press) - January 2, 2016 - 9:00am

LOS ANGELES – It takes more than “Star Wars” to make an $11 billion year.

Disney and J.J. Abrams pushed 2015 over the mark days before its conclusion, but many factors helped make the year the biggest of all time – including social media and better theatrical experiences – which helped draw audiences away from their home entertainment centers and into the multiplex.

In 2014, “The Interview” was released in theaters and online at the same time, and this year saw streaming service Netflix enter theatrical feature territory with “Beasts of No Nation” and “The Ridiculous 6,” both of which played in theaters and online simultaneously, alarming exhibitors. Yet attendance at the movies was up around four percent for the year, according to Jeff Goldstein, Warner Bros.’ executive vice president of domestic distribution.

It didn’t hurt that 2015 started off with some significant momentum from “American Sniper,” had the “Jurassic World” juggernaut in the summer, and then ended on the enormous high note of “Star Wars: The Force Awakens,” which on Wednesday became Disney’s biggest domestic earner in just 13 days of release.

“It’s like kicking the winning field goal at the end of the game. That’s what ‘Star Wars’ did,” said Paul Dergarabedian, senior media analyst for box office tracker Rentrak.

The overall slate didn’t look very different from years past, with 688 new releases. There were the near annual installments of franchises that continue to rake in the money (“Furious 7,” ‘’Avengers: Age of Ultron,” ‘’Spectre,” ‘’The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 2,” ‘’Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation”). And there were properties resurrected from years ago, some of which worked (“Jurassic World,” ‘’Star Wars: The Force Awakens”) and some that didn’t (“Fantastic Four,” ‘’Terminator Genisys”). There were franchise starters that hit (“Fifty Shades of Grey”) and some that were dead on arrival (“The Man From U.N.C.L.E.”). There were ambitious original ideas that succeeded (“Inside Out”), while others crashed and burned (“Tomorrowland,” ‘’Crimson Peak,” ‘’Jupiter Ascending”). Live action fairy tales flew (“Cinderella”) and floundered (“Pan”). And there were the smaller investments that paid off big (“Pitch Perfect 2,” ‘’Creed,” ‘’Straight Outta Compton,” ‘’Trainwreck”).

ACIRC AGE OF ULTRON AMERICAN SNIPER BEASTS OF NO NATION CRIMSON PEAK DISNEY AND J FANTASTIC FOUR FIFTY SHADES OF GREY FORCE AWAKENS JURASSIC WORLD STAR WARS
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