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‘Aquaman,’ ‘A Star Is Born’ Propel Warner Bros. to 2018 Global Box Office Record (EXCLUSIVE)

Thanks to the smash successes of “Aquaman,” “A Star Is Born,” and “The Meg,” Warner Bros. capped off 2018 with a new milestone. The studio had its biggest year to date at the worldwide box office, crossing $5.6 billion in ticket sales and outpacing 2017 by 9%.

Both domestic and international markets contributed to the boost in ticket sales, putting the studio behind Disney at No 2. in terms of market share.

The studio’s North American box office bounty crossed $1.9 billion. Overseas, Warner Bros. generated $3.6 billion, an uptick of 17% from 2017 and eclipsing the record of $3.17 billion set in 2014.

The improvement was due in part to foreign markets, where Warner Bros. saw record years in 21 territories, including China, Russia, and Ukraine. Titles that did modest business in the states like “Ready Player One” and “Rampage,” were able to pull in crowds and resonate in a big way overseas.

“Non-traditional films really worked in those regions, and that was very interesting,” said Tom Molter, Warner Bros.’ head of international distribution. “That means audiences are very receptive to go to the movies and see good stories. That’s very encouraging.”

Warner Bros.’ record year came despite some fierce headwinds in major markets. Multiplexes in Italy, Spain, and South Korea suffered some declines and China’s growth slowed to 9%.

Still, China had a banner year for the studio and brought in over $951 million. Jason Momoa’s glistening abs — paired with the appeal of “Furious 7” director James Wan — were able to lure moviegoers and make “Aquaman” a roaring achievement. It’s now both Warner Bros. and DC’s highest-grossing movie to date in the Middle Kingdom.

Not all titles that struck a chord in Hollywood were able to find their footing overseas. “Crazy Rich Asians,” for example, couldn’t find an audience in China. That’s partially because what made the film become a cultural touchstone in North America was the novelty of having a big-budget studio romantic comedy with an all-Asian cast for the first time in 25 years. It didn’t hold the same resonance in the mainland, where most theatrical releases feature Asian talent.

“China is such an interesting place because it’s very unpredictable,” Molter said. “When you can get a movie that really resonates with Chinese audiences, it makes a big difference.”

Overall, a diverse slate of blockbusters buoyed revenues to new heights. “Aquaman” was Warner Bros.’ top earning movie of the year worldwide with $850 million and counting, while “A Star Is Born” was the sole title to cross $200 million in North America in 2018. “Aquaman” didn’t pass that milestone domestically until January. The studio’s other biggest films globally include “Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald” ($631 million), “Ready Player One” ($582 million), and “The Meg” ($528 million).

Correction: This article originally erroneously stated that Warner Bros. crossed $42 billion worldwide, which is the industry’s total global box office haul, not the studio’s revenues. 

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