Comcast's NBCU turnaround complete as Universal Pictures breaks record with $5B box-office haul

Although the struggling motion-picture division it purchased four years ago as part of its NBCUniversal deal was largely an afterthought, Comcast (NASDAQ: CMCSA) is now seeing its Universal Pictures division produce record-setting revenue.

Animated kids sequel Minions led the domestic box office for a second straight weekend, pulling in an estimated $116.4 million from Friday through Sunday. 

The performance pushes Minions' total North American gross after just two weeks in theaters to $216.7 million. Driven by that movie, plus other hits like Jurassic World (which has grossed more than $600 million globally so far) and Furious 7 (more than $1.5 billion), Universal has grossed more than $5 billion at the global box office so far in 2015--that's the fastest any movie company has gotten to that benchmark in a calendar year. 

When Comcast acquired NBCU in 2011, the Universal Pictures division ranked dead last among major studios two years running, with duds like Land of the LostBruno and Funny People. Its share of the domestic box office was 10.2 percent, less than half of the industry-leading 26.8 percent it stands at today.

Under the direction of NBCU CEO Steve Burke--who replaced Adam Fogelson with Donna Langley as Universal Pictures chairman in 2013--the company's turnaround is now fairly complete.

The NBC broadcast network also ranked last among the Big Four networks in 2011. But it won the 2013-14 season in the key adults 18-49 demo--and stands to repeat again in 2014-15.

The situation has clear benefits for Comcast. As the entire pay-TV business enters a period of uncertain revenue potential, no company in it is as diversified as Comcast. 

For more:
- read this Box Office Mojo ranking

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