Nolte: Box Office Slumps 7 Percent Compared to 2018

Clouds are shown over the iconic Hollywood sign Thursday Feb. 27, 2014 in Los Angeles. Southern California got an overnight soaking Thursday as residents prepared for a second, more powerful storm that could bring heavier rain and prompted fears of mudslides in communities along fire-scarred foothills. (AP Photo/Nick Ut)
AP Photo/Nick Ut

We are two weekends away from this year’s halfway point and the 2019 box office is still down seven points compared to last year, and one point compared to 2017.

A string of unexpected mega-flops killed a momentum that made it look as though 2019 would overtake 2018, certainly 2017. But no one expected Men in Black: International ($28 million opening), The Secret Life of Pets 2 ($46M), Dark Phoenix ($32M), Rocketman ($25M), Godzilla: King of the Monsters ($47M), and Shaft ($8M) to open so poorly when compared to their predecessors — or in the case of Rocketman, when compared to Bohemian Rhapsody.

And that is just the last five or six weeks.

Shazam! ($139 million total domestic take), Dumbo ($113M), The Lego Movie 2 ($105M), Pet Sematary ($54M), The Hustle ($35M), Happy Death Day 2U ($28M), Hellboy ($22M), and Long Shot ($30M), all came in below expectations. In a few cases, well, well below…

And once again it is a single studio, Disney, not only salvaging the annual box office but eating most of it up. Three of Disney’s features own the top three box office spots: Avengers: Endgame ($830M), Captain Marvel ($426M), and Aladdin ($263M).

The only other pleasant box office surprises this year are the horror movie Us ($175M), How To Train Your Dragon 3 ($160M), Pokemon Detective Pikachu ($140M), and John Wick 3 ($148M).

The Woke genre is simply a catastrophe: Late Night ($5M domestic total so far), Booksmart ($19M), What Men Want ($55M), Long Shot ($30M), and The Miseducation of Cameron Post ($900K), are all straight up bombs.

Captain Marvel is certainly a woke entry, but at that point, especially with Endgame coming up next, Marvel Studios could do no wrong. We’ll see how the next Captain Marvel does and how Marvel overall does if it keeps its promise about becoming more stridently partisan and divisive.

With half a year left, Hollywood can still rebound, but almost all the rebounds are going to be credited to — you guessed it — Disney.

Toy Story 4, Spider-Man: Far From Home, Maleficent: Mistress of Evil, The Lion King, Frozen 2, Star Wars IX…. All Disney titles yet to come in 2019.

Other potential bright spots include Fast & Furious Presents Hobbs and Shaw, It: Chapter 2, Joker, Jumanji 2, and, if you want to be generous, the 87th attempt to reboot The Terminator.

Thanks only to Disney, the second half of this year looks every bit as promising as the second half of 2018, which gave us Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom, The Meg, Crazy Rich Asians, Bohemian Rhapsody, The Grinch, Halloween, Aquaman, Ant-Man and the Wasp, Mission: Impossible 6, and Venom — so my money is on 2019 pulling out a win, but…

We basically have one movie studio propping up the entire movie business, which is great for Disney, but not so good for the future of the overall industry.

What’s more, other than Pirates of the Caribbean, Disney is not losing its irreplaceable golden geese, its franchises… Star Wars is in a little trouble, especially with the end of the Skywalker saga this year, but the other studios have pretty much lost Godzilla, Shaft, Men in Black, X-Men, Star Trek, Terminator, Alien, Lego, Fantastic Beasts, Ghostbusters, Justice League, Transformers, Die Hard, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, Planet of the Apes, Jack Ryan, and a few I’m forgetting that are either on the bubble or doornail dead.

Either way, these sure things are no longer sure things.

Because they have killed the movie star, alienated half the country, sucked up to China, and in doing so, painted themselves into a corner with massive gambles that require a $400 to $500 million box office take just to break even, every year; Hollywood is one or two blockbusters away from a catastrophe.

This year might not be that catastrophic year but as the golden geese continue to die off, you can bet that year will arrive sooner rather than later.

Follow John Nolte on Twitter @NolteNC. Follow his Facebook Page here.


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