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Record Breaker! Domestic Box Office Hits New High in 2018

Hollywood got the best gift of all on Christmas Eve. The domestic box office reached a new benchmark even before the busiest time of year for moviegoing commences.

Blockbusters including Disney’s “Black Panther” and “Incredibles 2,” Universal’s “Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom,” and Fox’s “Deadpool 2” drove sales past $11.383 billion, according to Comscore. That puts 2018’s haul ahead of the record $11.382 billion set in 2016, with over a week left to go in the year.

It got more expensive to go to the movies, and ticket prices hit a new high, averaging $9.38 over the summer. But it’s not just the rising cost of admission accounting for the surge. Attendance is also up over 4% from last year.

As of Christmas Day, five of the top 10 biggest domestic releases of the year came from Disney. A pair of Marvel titles nabbed the first two slots, with “Black Panther” generating $700 million and “Avengers: Infinity War” following close behind with $678.8 million. Another set of spandexed heroes nabbed third as fellow Magic Kingdom title “Incredibles 2” amassed $608 million, making it the biggest domestic animated movie of all time. Universal’s “Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom” ($416 million) and “Deadpool 2” ($318 million) rounded out the top five.

Beyond blockbusters, Hollywood studios managed to field a number of breakout success stories such as “Crazy Rich Asians,” “A Star Is Born,” and “A Quiet Place” that fattened their profit margins. A slew of new movies, including “Aquaman,” “Mary Poppins Returns,” “Bumblebee,” and “Vice,” are expected to fill theaters during the busy stretch between Christmas and New Year’s to cap off a banner year.

The mix of overperforming tentpoles and surprise hits helped alleviate the pressure from some notable flops. Universal’s recent releases “Mortal Engines” and “Welcome to Marwen” were both massive bombs, and could lose the studio around $175 million combined. Lionsgate’s “Robin Hood” and Disney’s “The Nutcracker and the Four Realms” are also big-budget duds that failed to recoup production and marketing costs. Even seemingly reliable franchises like “Star Wars” and “Harry Potter” had some missteps. “Solo: A Star Wars Story” and “Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald” both failed to reach the commercial success of their predecessors.

In any case, it’s no surprise that Disney commands over 26% of this year’s market share and made over $1 billion more than the next biggest studio. That number stands to grow in 2019 when the Buena Vista company acquires 20th Century Fox’s film assets.

It’s unclear if 2018 will reach a global record, though projections show a 3% improvement over 2017 that’s mainly fueled by domestic growth. Industry analysts estimate the international box office will also see a boost around 1% to 2% over last year. A merry Christmas, indeed.

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