Sony Pictures announced Thursday that for the first time, they will exceed $3 billion in worldwide ticket sales this year. This isn't any kind of record, though; other studios have surpassed the $3 billion mark before (three times before, in fact), but it's still good news for Sony -- and it is only one aspect of their amazing year at the box office. Their domestic take for 2006 is expected to pass the industry record of $1.573 million, an amount and record they reached back in 2002, for any studio in a single year. Another industry record they've already broken this year is for the number of releases to open at #1. So far, this number is 12, but Sony still has two more titles (The Holiday and The Pursuit of Happyness) to release before the year ends.

For the third time in the past five years, Sony will likely finish out the year with the greatest domestic market share for box office gross. The major contributor to Sony's success in 2006 was The Da Vinci Code, which had an international gross of more than $750 million. Other titles that helped out include Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby, Casino Royale and, surprisingly, The Pink Panther (hey, that's two remakes that originally starred Peter Sellers!).

Overall 2006 has been a seemingly good year for the motion picture industry, especially considering all the commotion last year over the "Great 'Slump' of '05". And yet, according to Box Office Mojo the total domestic gross for all movies in 2006 is right now $500 million less than the total of 2005 -- though some reports say that this year is up 4% over last year (not a big deal since '05 was down 6% from '04). Thankfully, B.O.M. has a handy YTD comparison, so we can actually see how 2006 stands so far against the same point in years '02 thru '05, and comparatively we're experiencing maybe only the third best year in five. We still have a few weeks left until the year closes, and a lot of movies are coming out in those few weeks, so the final tally could possibly outdo 2004's or 2003's grosses, but I wouldn't bet on it.