Nearly two months into 2019 and the domestic box office is already in a startling freefall when compared to the previous five years.
According to Box Office Mojo, box office receipts are down –23 percent when compared to last year. Some are chalking this up to the lack of an early hits like Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle, Star Wars: The Last Jedi and The Greatest Showman, which were released in late December of 2017 but made most of their money in early 2018.
There was also no Black Panther over this President’s Day weekend, a movie that opened with $202 million during this same weekend last year. As a result, this President’s Day weekend box office ranks as the worst in 15 years.
Yes, 2018 was a banner box office year, a record breaker, a perfect storm where everything that was expected to hit did and where a whole host of other titles over-performed. Reproducing that kind of year is no easy feat, no question. But…
That cannot explain why this year’s box office is down -16 percent compared to 2017; down -19 percent, -19 percent, and -12 percent compared to 2016, 2015, and 2014, respectively.
There is just no question that has been an especially bad opener for the movie industry.
Granted, there is plenty of year left for the box office to recover, and as of now no one is losing faith. But there is also no question that a whole host of titles, product that looked sure-fire on paper, have already under-performed.
Mary Poppins Returns grossed a respectable $170 million domestic, but for an iconic property like that attached to the Magic Kingdom hype machine, that is definitely a disappointment.
Night Shyamalan’s Glass, the much-anticipated conclusion to the director’s Unbreakable trilogy, barely limped over $100 million even after the middle chapter, Split, nearly made $140 million. With stars like Bruce Willis and Samuel L. Jackson, this should have been something closer to a phenomenon.
The Lego Movie 2: The Second Part was a real shocker with a dead-on-arrival opening of just $34 million. The first one opened to $69 million.
Even more stillborn was the horror sequel Happy Death Day 2U, which opened to an awful $9.5 million, compared the original, which opened to $26 million.
The Kid Who Would Be King flopped, Vice is a huge disappointment, Liam Neeson’s Cold Pursuit did nothing, and What Men Want is treading water.
The only real good news has been Aquaman, which opened on December 21, ended up grossing $331 million, and single-handedly saved the DC Universe franchise.
So how does the future look?
Well, everyone is waiting for Captain Marvel to swoop in and save the day, but Marvel movies that introduce a new character tend to open at right around $100 million and star Brie Larson selling the movie as feminist tract could divide audiences in the same way the failed Ghostbusters reboot did.
But also in March there is a Disney’s live-action remake of Dumbo.
April delivers DC’s Shazam!, another Hellboy flick no one asked for, and a 500 pound gorilla called Avengers: Endgame, which drops us right into summer and a whole host of promising titles: John Wick 3 (May 17), Will Smith’s Aladdin (May 24), Godzilla: King of the Monsters (May 31), Men In Black International (June 14), Toy Story 4 (June 21), Spider-Man: Far From Home (July 5), The Lion King (July 17), Tarantino’s Once Upon a Time In Hollywood (July 26), Fast & Furious Presents Hobbs & Shaw (August 2), and New Mutants (August 2).
So things could look very different come fall, when a whole host of blockbusters still await: It: Chapter II (Sept. 6), Joker (October 4), Frozen 2 (Nov. 22), Jujmanji 2 (Dec. 12) and Star Wars: Episode IX (Dec. 20).