Firm Returns Weekly - 2023 box office figures, streaming ratings, and the UK financial services sector

A breakdown of the 2023 global box office figures; Young Sheldon tops the US streaming chart; and taking the temperature of the UK financial services sector.

Warner Bros. Discovery

2023 box office figures

The estimated total global box office revenue for 2023 came to $33.9bn, which is up 31% on 2022, but 15% below the average of 2017-2019.

Of this total, $9.05bn came from the US (a 21% gain on 2022), $7.71bn from China (a 83% gain on 2022, and only 6% below the 2017-2019 average), and $17.1bn from other international markets (a 20% gain on 2022).

Barbie was the top grossing film of the year with $1.44bn in global revenue, followed by The Super Mario Bros. Movie with $1.36bn, Oppenheimer with $952m, Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 with $845.6m, and Fast X with $704.8m.

Since I'm British, please allow me the indulgence of going through the UK box office figures. Total ticket sales came to £1.06bn ($1.35bn), which was up 8.3% on 2022, but still significantly below pre-pandemic levels, where revenue exceeded £1.3bn for each of the 5 years leading up to 2019.

The top-performing films in the UK were slightly different to those globally. Barbie still held the top spot with $122m in revenue, but Oppenheimer with $75m beat The Super Mario Bros. Movie with $70m, and Wonka took fourth place with $62.8m. As Wonka is still in theatres, it could move higher up the list before the end of its run.

Given that they produced 3 of the top 5 films globally, it might not surprise you to learn that Universal Pictures generated the highest box office revenue of any of the major studios. In total, they released 24 films that generated a combined $4.91bn in revenue worldwide.

This is the first time since 2015 that any studio has been able to beat Disney, which generated $4.83bn from its 17 releases - a possible sign that we're starting to see the crown (or tiara) slip.

Warner Bros. came in a respectable third place with $3.84bn, which isn't too bad considering all of their superhero films flopped (Shazam! Fury of the Gods, The Flash, Blue Beetle, and Aquaman and the Lost Kingdom). Judging by historical performance, you'd have thought these films could have generated another $1bn or more between them, but I guess the same could be said for Disney, which saw a similar impact with its Marvel releases (aside from Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3). Quality over quantity is going to be the strategy for both studios going forwards I think.

Sony came in fourth with $2.09bn, Paramount fifth with $2.03bn, and Lionsgate had a good year, coming in sixth after breaking $1bn in box office revenue for the first time in 5 years. It's successes were: John Wick: Chapter 4, The Hunger Games: The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes, and Saw X. I watched and enjoyed all three, particularly The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes which detailed the origin story of President Snow - the primary antagonist of the original films.

Streaming ratings

In the week commencing 4 Dec 2023, Young Sheldon became the most watched show on streaming platforms in the US. It clocked in 1.63bn minutes of viewing across Netflix and Max, having recorded 1.85bn minutes the week before, and 963m minutes in the week it premiered on Netflix (20-26 Nov).

This shows you an example of how releasing a show on Netflix, following a period of exclusivity on Max, can help substantially increase its audience. Not only does this increase the revenue generated by the show, it also creates new fans that may be inclined to subscribe to Max in order to watch the next season. It's a very rational strategy, the pursuit of which I find encouraging.


Just a quick note on Aviva to say they have completed their acquisition of Optiom as discussed back in December.

DSW Capital

I'm currently working on a write-up for DSW Capital, which I hope to release by the end of the month, but today I'm going to briefly discuss an article I read this week that helps to set the scene.

DSW currently does the majority of its business in the Corporate Finance and Financial Due Diligence service lines, which are both related to Mergers and Acquisitions (M&A). The significant slowdown in M&A activity over the last year has therefore impacted the business, and to an even greater extent the share price.

DSW Capital share price.
DSW Capital share price.

The picture for the wider financial services industry is much the same, with most firms having to cut back on staffing costs due to a lack of deal flow. What I find interesting however, is that while there have been lay-offs, there has also been a move by a number of firms to reduce working hours instead.

The implicit implication of such action is that they're anticipating an imminent upswing in activity, and want to retain the personnel required to capture it. Historically this has been a good move, as the financial services sector has been one of the fastest to recover from economic downturns.

DSW are also well positioned for a market recovery, having made significant investments into the recruitment of new partners over the past year (with the current total standing at 51). Early signs from the final months of 2023 have been positive, so we'll have to see how things pan out.

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Jamie Larson