Nolte: Movie Box Office Bottoms Out to Three-Year Low

From top left: Giles Keyte/Columbia Pictures/Davis Entertainment/Emily Aragones/3 Arts Entertainment/Twentieth Century Fox

Hollywood is so far having a terrible, no good, very bad 2019 with its worst box office performance in three years.

Currently, box office receipts are lagging behind last year by a full ten percent, and around half a percent behind 2017 and 2016.

One more flop and 2019 could easily slip behind 2015.

What should terrify the movie business all the more is that things are even worse than they seem, because…

There is only one studio holding up the year and that’s Disney, which is responsible for 2019’s top four money makers:

  • Avengers: Endgame – $842M
  • Captain Marvel – $427M
  • Aladdin (2019) – $308M (still in theaters)
  • Toy Story 4 – $246M (still in theaters)

After those four, the closest titles are Universal’s horror thriller Us ($175M) and Lionsgate’s John Wick 3 ($161M).

Get this…

Out of the seven major studios, Disney has eaten up 36 percent of the box office — oh, and Disney has also eaten up one of those major studios — 20th Century-Fox, which puts Disney’s 2019 market share at 40 percent.

For context, in 2018, Disney gobbled up 26 percent of the market share and 22 percent, in 2017, and was still the top studio both of those years.

Forty percent this year.


Outside the fact that only one studio is keeping the movie business from imploding like the music business or CNN’s primetime ratings, what should be freaking Hollywood out right now is that 2019 was a perfect storm for Disney, a year that will almost be impossible to repeat in the foreseeable future.

On top of closing the 20-plus Avengers franchise with Endgame — a once in a decade movie event — Captain Marvel certainly benefited by this wave to gross more than it would have otherwise; and on the non-Marvel side, there was Disney’s Toy Story 4, Pixar’s most successful franchise not named The Incredibles, and the live action remakes of Aladdin and the upcoming Lion King, two of the studios’ most beloved animated titles.

Disney deserves all the success it’s enjoying and will have throughout the rest of 2019, but even the Magic Kingdom’s magic is unlikely to conjure a repeat year like this — another Endgame/Aladdin/Toy Story 4/Lion King/Frozen/Star Wars — in the near future.

Even so, compared to this same time last year, Disney’s box office receipts are still down 10 percent, which is nowhere near as bad as Paramount (-14 percent), Sony (-26 percent), and 20th Century-Fox (-68 percent).

Only Warner Bros. (+22 percent) and Universal (+20 percent) have improved over last year. (Thanks to John Wick and a dreadful 2018, Lionsgate jumped 93 percent.)

And then there is the existential threat to a business that relies almost 100 percent on franchises… The death of a whole lot of golden geese….

Godzilla, The LEGO Movie, Men in Black, X-Men (Dark Phoenix), Hellboy, and Shaft, are just this year’s suicides.

Over the last few years, Tomb Raider, Predator, Justice League, Pirates of the Caribbean, Star Trek, Transformers, Planet of the Apes, Fifty Shades, Pitch Perfect, Blade Runner, The Mummy, Alien, Smurfs, Muppets, Saw, Underworld, Fantastic Beasts, Ghostbusters, Independence Day, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, Ice Age, Jack Ryan, Jack Reacher, Hunger Games, Terminator, and Star Wars, are either dead, dying, stumbling, under-performing, diminished, or concluded.

Good heavens, who ever thought the future for Star Wars would be in doubt. But after the Skywalker Saga ends this December, after the screen deaths and actual tragic deaths of the original cast, after the dud that was Solo, after the massive fan backlash against Woke Wars, that is the case.

And speaking of the fascism of politically correct wokery, also dead is the movie comedy, which had been running on raunchy fumes for years now.

So all that’s left, besides those billion dollar franchise gambles, are cheapie horror flicks, which are starting to feel a little tired.

What’s next, Annabelle vs. Chucky vs. Jigsaw: Dollageddon…?

Hollywood probably thought it had mined a rich vein in the musical biopic genre after Bohemian Rhapsody grossed nearly a billion dollars worldwide, but the big, gay Elton John biopic, Rocketman will probably fail to break even with just a $166 million worldwide gross.


Granted, there is still plenty of 2019 left, a year that includes the aforementioned Lion King, a Tarantino flick, a Fast & Furious spin-off, It: Chapter 2, Joker, Frozen 2, Maleficent 2, Jumanji, and The Rise of Skywalker. So a rebound could be on the horizon … thanks to Disney, the studio behind four of those nine titles.


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


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