Box Office & Tomatometers: The Studio Winners of 2023

We crunched the numbers to see which studios reigned supreme in 2023 across a variety of categories measured by box office totals and critical reception.

by and | January 7, 2024 | Comments


We work with a lot of numbers here at Rotten Tomatoes, and most of that work is reflected in the Tomatometer and Audience Scores you can see all over the site. That’s all well and good if you’re only interested in seeing what critics and fans thought about, say, a specific movie or two, but what about the bigger picture? With that in mind, we’ve combed through a year’s worth of data to bring you a few amusing nuggets, and the big takeaway was that no one studio dominated every category across box office and Tomatometer numbers. Read on for all the high scores, impressive averages, big milestones, and more.

Highest Box Office Total (Wide Releases) – Universal Studios ($2.5+ billion)

Backed by the 1-2 punch of The Super Mario Bros. Movie and Oppenheimer, Universal came out on top of both the domestic and worldwide box office this year. While it was further aided by the grosses of Fast X, Five Nights at Freddy’s, Trolls Band Together, M3GAN, and The Exorcist: Believer, they were all just a bit of gravy. Christopher Nolan’s film and Illumination’s animated video game adaptation alone amounted to over $2.313 billion, higher than any other studio’s combined worldwide grosses for the entire year. Their domestic haul of $901 million was also higher than Sony’s 14 wide releases or Paramount’s seven.

Highest Box Office Average (Wide Releases) – Walt Disney Studios ($175+ million)

Disney may have had a rough year on the books, but if they kept their eyes strictly on the gross side of the ledger, the numbers actually look pretty good. They had more original films than Paramount did this year, but it was the familiarity that drew the bigger audience. They led with Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 ($358.9 million) and The Little Mermaid ($298.1 million), with other major earners including Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania ($214.5 million), Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny ($174.4 million) and Elemental ($154.4 million). The Marvels, Wish, and Haunted Mansion may have taken down the average a little, but Disney was still well out in front in this column.

Highest Tomatometer Average (Wide Releases) – A24 (86%)

When it comes to consistency of quality, at least regarded by film critics, there has rarely been anything like what A24 has been delivering. Among the 100+ releases that have bared their logo since their arrival in 2013, only 16 of them have ever fallen below the 60% threshold on the Tomatometer. None of those films were released in 2023. Their wide releases included one of their biggest successes in Talk To Me (94%) and one of Sofia Coppola’s best turnouts with Priscilla (82%). Add in another major award contender with Celine Song’s Past Lives, their highest-rated film of the year (96%), plus You Hurt My Feelings (94%), Dream Scenario (92%), Dicks: The Musical (76%) and Beau is Afraid (70%), and you have one eclectic lineup that most critics were thrilled to lend their support towards.

Highest Audience Score Average (Wide Releases) – Paramount (92%)

On the other hand, audiences saw it differently in 2023. Often not having access to every critical darling from A24, they went with the comfort food of the sequel and reboot factory of Paramount this year. With the exception of 80 For Brady (which received their lowest Audience Score at a still whopping 89%), Paramount’s lineup consisted of a second Paw Patrol film (94%), a sixth Scream (91%), and seventh entries for Mission: Impossible (94%) and the Transformers (91%). Add into that new branding for Dungeons & Dragons (93%) and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (90%) and the fanbase bathed in the waters and left with high ratings.

Highest-Grossing Top 10 Weekend (Domestic) – July 21-23 ($310,950,739)

Poster images for Barbie (2024) and Oppenheimer (2024)

(Photo by ©Warner Bros. Pictures/©Universal Pictures)

A single tentpole release can drive a three-day weekend into record territory. Unleash a pair of must-see films with a cleverly mashed-up name on the grassroots level, and you have the phenomenon that was “Barbenheimer.” On the weekend of July 21-23, Greta Gerwig’s Barbie (Warner Bros.) had the largest opening of the year with $162 million and was joined by Christopher Nolan’s Oppenheimer (Universal) joining in with $82.4 million; the largest non-Batman opening of his career. The $310+ million of all the film grossed that non-holiday weekend was the fourth best of all-time beaten only by the weekends where Black Panther and the last two Avengers films were released.

Most Certified Fresh Movies – A24 (9 Films)

A24 have released 120 films since their inception in 2013, and their track record will blow your mind. Of those 120 titles, 104 of them have been deemed Fresh by critics, 91 have been Certified Fresh, and over 50 currently boast a Tomatometer score of 90% or higher. Nine of those Certified Fresh titles were added in 2023, and they included Past Lives, Talk To Me, You Hurt My Feelings, Dream Scenario, The Zone of Interest, and The Iron Claw. All Dirt Roads Taste of Salt, Showing Up, and Priscilla rounded out an impressive lineup besting Lionsgate’s seven Certified Fresh titles, which included their own 90%+ releases of Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret., John Wick: Chapter 4, Sisu, and Joy Ride.

Highest Tomatometer Score (Wide Release) – Lionsgate for Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret. (99%)

Lionsgate is on the honor roll for achieving the highest Tomatometer score from an individual wide release with Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret., which notched a 99% score from over just above 220 reviews. Director Kelly Fremon Craig, who also helmed 2016’s The Edge of Seventeen, cements her rep as the strongest navigator of the adolescent girl’s heart. Now if only audiences were showing up to watch in theaters. Critics certainly put in the effort, ringing that hallway school bell that Judy Blume’s enduring 1970 YA novel now had a faithful, instant-classic movie adaptation.

Highest Audience Score (Wide Release) – Angel Studios for Sound of Freedom (99%) 

(Photo by ©Angel Studios)

Angel Studios took flight with Sound of Freedom, the child trafficking rescue film that registered an impressive 99% Audience Score with over 10,000 verified ratings. Freedom beat out films like Jesus Revolution (also with a 99% but with fewer votes), along with Air, Guy Ritchie’s The Covenant, Gran Turismo, Makoto Shinkai’s Suzume, and even Taylor Swift: The Eras Tour, all of which fell just below at 98%.

Highest Per-Theater Average (Domestic) – Asteroid City ($140,857 in 6 theaters)

When it comes to securing a high per-theater average, one of the keys is to get yourself a Wes Anderson film to distribute and platform it into a few locations. While there were only five films released in 2023 to reach a PTA of $50,000 or higher, that is a number that Anderson has hit with eight of his last nine films, going back to 2001’s The Royal Tenenbaums. Focus Features/Universal Pictures’ Asteroid City had not only the best per-theater average of the year in its limited release, but it had the best six-theater launch in the modern era — better even than American Hustle ($123,409), Blue Jasmine ($102,011), and Midnight in Paris ($99,834).

Widest Release – Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny (4,600 theaters)

Fourteen films launched themselves into over 4,000 venues this year, but only one of them had one of the biggest launches of all time: Disney got Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny into 4,600 theaters at the end of June. This is the third-biggest launch by the studio of all time, behind only 2019’s The Lion King (4,725 theaters) and Avengers: Endgame (4,662 theaters), making it the seventh-widest start by a film in history, just ahead of Toy Story 4 (4,575 theaters).

Highest-Grossing Actor – Issa Rae (Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse, Barbie)

Issa Rae as President Barbie in Barbie (2024) and Jessica Drew in Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse (2024)

(Photo by ©Warner Bros. Pictures/©Sony Pictures Releasing)

Do you know The Price is Right game called “Take Two?” A contestant is offered four prizes and they have to choose the two whose prices add up to a pre-determined number. If we play this game in 2023, the four choices would be WB’s Barbie, Universal’s The Super Mario Bros. Movie, Disney’s Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3, and Sony’s Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse. Chris Pratt headlined the two middle titles to grosses of nearly $934 million. But if we look at the actor who appeared or voiced characters in the other two, then Issa Rae takes the cake with a pair of films totaling $1.017 billion, and that’s even before we consider the recent release of Amazon/MGM’s American Fiction, which also features Rae. Shout-outs to the other multi-project moneymakers of 2023, including Helen Mirren, Keegan Michael-Key, Ariana Greenblatt, Will Ferrell, Shea Whigham, Ayo Edebiri, Jason Schwartzman, and Awkwafina.

Thumbnail by ©Universal Pictures/©A24/©Paramount Pictures

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