In a year when box office revenue will decline for the first time in more than a decade, venerable Hollywood movie studios Warner Bros. and 20th Century Fox – both more than 80 years old – have managed to stand above the fray to achieve record years. Speculation abounds over why ticket sales are more than 5 percent behind 2004 levels but executives at Warner Bros. and Fox have spent much of the year with mostly big smiles on their faces when receiving their weekend box office estimates. “This is an industry that is content-driven, and when the content is there, the box office responds,” said Dan Fellman, Warner Bros.’ president of domestic distribution. “There’s really nothing broken, it’s just a matter of coming back with some good product. Fox is having a good year as we are.” As of Monday, first-place Warner Bros. had reached $1.32 billion in domestic ticket sales compared with the $1.29 billion earned by second-place Fox, according to Box Office Mojo. Warner Bros. has now grossed $1 billion or more for three consecutive years and exceeded 2001 totals, the studio’s previous best. For Fox, its 2005 performance was obviously greatly boosted by releasing the year’s top-grossing movie: “Star Wars: Episode III – Revenge of the Sith,” which earned $380.8 million in ticket sales domestically. But Fox also had two other summer hits that exceeded expectations, starting with the Brad Pitt-Angelina Jolie vehicle “Mr. & Mrs. Smith.” Concern over whether the blanket tabloid coverage of the stars’ personal lives would overshadow the film disappeared after it opened in first place and went on to gross $186.3 million. A month later, the superhero film “Fantastic Four” shocked the industry on its way to earning $154.7 million domestically. This fall, the studio has enjoyed solid success with the Johnny Cash biopic “Walk the Line,” which is heading toward the $90 million mark and counting. “I think Fox’s secret is like Warners’ secret: it was the product we put out this year,” said Bruce Snyder, Fox’s president of distribution. “It worked and people wanted to see it. It’s a matter of the mix of movies and we were fortunate.” But it wasn’t all a string of success for Fox, which stumbled badly at the start of the summer season with the period epic “Kingdom of Heaven” directed by Ridley Scott. The film made just $47.4 million at the box office and is considered one of the costlier bombs of 2005. But only weeks later, Fox released the final “Star Wars” film. “Fox generally has solid marketing campaigns for their pictures,” Gray said. “`Star Wars’ was not a marketing challenge but they positioned ‘Fantastic Four’ and ‘Walk the Line,’ among others, very well.” For his part, Fellman is confident that Warner Bros. will have another stellar year in 2006 and also believes that most of the other studios will fare better than they did in 2005. “If you look at their schedules for next year, I think you’ll agree everyone will be stronger than they were,” he said. Greg Hernandez, (818) 713-3758 [email protected] 160Want local news?Sign up for the Localist and stay informed Something went wrong. Please try again.subscribeCongratulations! You’re all set! AD Quality Auto 360p 720p 1080p Top articles1/5READ MORERose Parade grand marshal Rita Moreno talks New Year’s Day outfit and ‘West Side Story’ remake Warner Bros. was the only studio to have three films gross more than $200 million at the box office. Its successes were led by “Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire,” the third movie in a series based on the popular books by J.K. Rowling. “Potter” had grossed $263.2 million as of Sunday, has been in the top 10 for six weeks, and is the second-highest grossing film released in 2005. During the summer, when many studios saw their tent-pole films collapse due to audience indifference, Warner Bros. had major hits with “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory” ($206.4 million) and “Batman Begins” ($205.3 million). “They had it together this year,” said Brandon Gray, president of Box Office Mojo, which tracks movie ticket grosses daily. “Each of their top three films performed at or above expectations and accounted for about $680 million of their business. They also had a lot of mid-range performers and not a lot of flops.” Warner Bros.’ 2005 numbers were further boosted by Academy Award Best Picture winner “Million Dollar Baby,” which earned much of its $100.4 million gross this year. But the studio also had some unexpected flops including “Miss Congeniality 2” starring Sandra Bullock and “Man of the House” with Tommy Lee Jones.