Golden Age of Streaming who? Despite an influx of entertainment options on Netflix, Hulu and now Disney Plus, global box office receipts will surpass $42.5 billion in 2019, according to Comscore, cementing a new industry high.
Though U.S. ticket sales slumped 4.4% to $11.4 billion, international audiences fueled the record turnout. Overseas revenues also set a new high-water mark as blockbusters including Disney’s “Avengers: Endgame,” Sony’s “Spider-Man: Far From Home” and Warner Bros.’ “Joker” drove foreign box office tallies to $31.1 billion. It marks the first time the international box office has exceeded $30 million.
“Through every challenge, through every new technology innovation over the last 20 years, theatrical admissions have been stable and box office has consistently grown,” National Assn. of Theatre Owners president and CEO John Fithian said in a statement. “We look forward to 2020 when a wider range of studios and filmmakers offer audiences more opportunities for even more moviegoing.”
“Avengers: Endgame” was this year’s biggest movie, earning a staggering $858 million in North America and $2.79 billion worldwide. Though it didn’t set an all-time record in the States, it powered past “Avatar” globally ($2.78 billion) to become the highest-grossing movie in history.
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In the U.S. and worldwide, the 10 biggest movies of the year were either a sequel, remake or based on an existing property. After “Avengers: Endgame,” the top films globally were Disney’s “The Lion King” ($1.65 billion), Disney’s “Frozen 2” ($1.32 billion), Sony’s “Spider-Man: Far From Home” ($1.13 billion), Disney’s “Captain Marvel” ($1.12 billion), Disney’s “Toy Story 4” ($1.07 billion), Warner Bros.’ “Joker” ($1.06 billion), Disney’s “Aladdin” ($1.05 billion), Disney’s “Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker” ($945 million) and Universal’s “Fast & Furious Presents: Hobbs & Shaw” ($758 million).
Though domestic ticket sales were down from 2018’s record high of $11.9 billion — the biggest-year-over-year-decline since 2014 — it still represented the second-biggest bounty ever.
For the first time in recent history, the five highest-grossing movies in North America all came from the same studio: Disney. Jon Favreau’s remake of “The Lion King” secured second place ($534 million), followed by “Toy Story 4” ($434 million), “Captain Marvel” ($426 million) and “Frozen 2” ($421 million).
Even though the overly familiar remained supreme, Hollywood studios also scored at home with original content such as Universal’s “Us” ($175 million), Sony’s “Once Upon a Time in Hollywood” ($141 million), Lionsgates’ “Knives Out” ($110 million), Fox’s “Ford v Ferrari” ($106 million) and STX’s “Hustlers” ($104 million). It was a refreshing sign that even amid streaming wars and superhero dominance, new ideas can still be a theatrical draw.
However, numerous high-profile flops prevented ticket sales from soaring to new heights in the U.S. Universal’s high-profile misfire “Cats” will lose the studio $100 million. Disney’s “Dark Phoenix,” an “X-Men” spinoff the studio inherited after merging with Fox, was another big-budget fiasco that resulted in an estimated $120 million write-down. No major studio got through 2019 scot-free: Paramount’s “Gemini Man” and “Terminator: Dark Fate” bombed, as did Sony’s “Charlie’s Angels,” STX’s “UglyDolls” and a string of Warner Bros.’ mid-budget offerings like “The Goldfinch,” “Richard Jewell” and “Motherless Brooklyn.”
It’s hard to overstate Disney’s dominance over the box office in 2019. The studio commanded nearly 40% of the domestic market, when accounting for 20th Century Fox. Even without an assist from the Murdoch’s film assets, which it inherited earlier this year, Disney individually controlled 33% of North American box office with $3.7 billion, marking a 22% jump from last year.
That kind of chokehold left a carnivorous gap between Disney and its closest rivals, Warner Bros. ($1.55 billion for 13.84% of the market) and Universal ($1.51 billion for 13.42% of the market). Both studios saw double-digit declines in 2019. Sony landed in fourth place in terms of stateside marketshare with 11.7%, a 5% boost from last year. Lionsgate, up 98% from 2018 ticket sales, took the No. 5 slot with 6.8%. Paramount trailed in sixth, dropping 25% from last year to represent 5% of revenues.
As a whole, the surge at the global box office has industry experts feeling optimistic about the state of moviegoing. In 2020, blockbuster-hopefuls like MGM’s “No Time to Die,” Warner Bros.’ “Wonder Woman: 1984” and Disney’s “Black Widow” are expected to entice audiences in a big way.
“The immersive bigger-than-life movie theater experience remains a singular, essential and relevant part of the entertainment diet of consumers around the world,” said Paul Dergarabedian, a senior media analysts with Comscore. “The gold standard experience created by cinemas combined with amazing studio films will continue to draw enthusiastic crowds now and in the future.”