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Where are the billion dollar movies? Hollywood lacks mega hits

Chris Pratt and Charlie Day voice Mario and Luigi in “The Super Mario Bros. Movie” for Universal and Illumination.


LOS ANGELES – It’s the billion-dollar question: Why are blockbusters in short supply this year?

universal The Super Mario Bros. movie. Movie is the only movie released in 2023 to so far pass the billion dollar mark at the global box office. It doesn’t look like there could be another, even with some big titles on the calendar.

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“If you were to give 10 people a release schedule at the beginning of the year and say, ‘We’re only going to have a billion-dollar movie out of all these movies, and can you choose which movie that will be? Mike Polidoros, CEO of film marketing firm PaperAirplane Media, said, “I don’t think anyone would have taken a Super Mario Bros. movie to the next level.” Movie”.

The lack of billionaires marks a sea change in the industry. In the years leading up to the Covid-19 pandemic, and even last year, there were many megabytes that exceeded $1 billion of the global total.

The lack of these kinds of blockbusters in 2023 is particularly evident in Disney, which owns the Marvel, Star Wars, Pixar, and Legacy of Fairy Tale franchises. While the studio is well on its way to being the ruler of the box office this year, it’s had a series of missteps in recent months that have raised concerns that audience preferences are changing too quickly for Hollywood to adapt.

Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania failed to draw audiences beyond Marvel’s die-hard fans in February, grossing just $214.5 million domestically and less than $500 million worldwide. “Elemental,” which was released just last month, currently holds the second-lowest domestic showing of any Pixar film in the studio’s history, narrowly eclipsing 2020’s Onward, which experienced shortfalls at the box office due to the pandemic.

At Disney’s Lucasfilm, “Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny,” which hits theaters June 30, is expected to struggle to make back its roughly $300 million production budget. To date, it has grossed $122.1 million at the domestic box office and $221.4 million worldwide.

“On the whole, I see Disney in a situation that was mostly expected to be emerging from the pandemic and going through yet another leadership change,” said Sean Robbins, a senior analyst at “These two hugely influential players have reshaped the studio’s attitude in many ways, especially at the box office when considering the past decade that has seen their best franchises and their brand on all cylinders. That kind of momentum just wouldn’t be sustainable without the occasional ebb and flow.”

Disney CEO Bob Iger told CNBC’s David Faber Thursday that the company will cut Marvel and Star Wars content as it seeks to cut costs and revamp its brands.

A bright spot for Disney has come in the form of James Gunn’s final arc at Marvel Studios. “Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3” is the third-highest-grossing domestic release so far this year, with $357.5 million. It trails behind Sony’s “Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse.” Gunn now helps helm DC Studios at Warner Bros. Discovery.

The third Guardians movie has managed to secure $834.2 million worldwide since its May release, but it likely won’t reach the coveted $1 billion threshold.

Notably, Disney’s “Avatar: The Way of Water” generated more than $1 billion in global ticket sales in 2023, but since it was released in 2022, it’s not considered a billion-dollar movie of the year.

“The billion-dollar club seems to be getting more exclusive in 2023,” said Paul Dergarabedian, senior media analyst at comScore. “While there are many high-profile titles featuring some of the biggest movie brands and franchises, this year’s crop so far lacks the global footprint or sheer market dominance to pass the billion-dollar threshold in what has been a competitive global movie market.”

The highest-grossing films of 2023 worldwide

  1. The Super Mario Bros. movie. Movie (Universal) – $1.34 billion
  2. “Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3” (Disney) – $834.2 million
  3. “Fast X” (Universal) – $702.8 million
  4. “Full River Red” (EDKO Films) – $647.8 million
  5. “Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse” (Sony) – $643.5 million
  6. “The Wandering Earth 2” (China Film Group Corporation) – $585.5 million
  7. “The Little Mermaid” (Disney) – $542.9 million
  8. “Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania” (Disney) – $471.3 million
  9. Lost In The Stars (Alibaba Pictures) – $428.5 million
  10. John Wick: Chapter 4 (Lionsgate) – $432.5 million

*This list does not include films released in 2022 that achieved ticket sales in 2023.

The Chinese market, in particular, was a major driving force in its previous multibillion-dollar box office hit, but the region has been more selective about which Hollywood films are allowed to be shown in the country. China has also developed its own lucrative film market.

For example, most Marvel films released pre-pandemic saw 15% to 22% of all ticket sales from China. In the aftermath of the pandemic, only a few of these comic book movies have been released to screens in the country and those that have have seen significantly less revenue.

The first two Ant-Man movies, which were released in 2015 and 2018, brought in about 20% of ticket sales from China. Meanwhile, Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania saw just 8% of tickets sold in China.

“Globally, China’s evolution into a market that can no longer be relied upon for massive offerings by some of the films and franchises that used to do so leaves a gap that may be too big to fill in the short term,” Robbins said.

dry spell

Lower Chinese ticket sales combined with slower-than-expected returns from domestic moviegoers have hampered blockbusters in 2023, dragging down the number of multi-billion-dollar blockbusters.

In the past decade, the number of global multi-billion dollar earners has increased exponentially, with Disney responsible for the majority of the chart-topping titles. In fact, the studio earned at least $1 billion every year from 2014 through 2019, when it had seven billion dollars worth of movies.

He didn’t make a $1 billion movie in 2020 or 2021 due to pandemic restrictions, but the 2022 movie “Avatar: The Way of Water” crossed $2 billion.

“Because 2019 was an anomaly on the upside, I think 2023 can be viewed as an anomaly on the other hand,” said Polidoros of PaperAirplane. “As they say with auditioning, get rid of the high and the low and go from there. And I think the same theory applies to the box office as a whole.”

Several box office analysts who spoke with CNBC shared the same sentiment as Polidoros. They noted that while many of Disney’s releases fell short of expectations, the studio remains a strong competitor at the domestic and global box office.

“It’s very unlikely that Disney will get a global hit of $1 billion this year,” Dergarabedian said. But, to be fair, it’s Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3, “The Little Mermaid”, “Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania” and “Elemental” have collectively earned over $2 billion worldwide. “

Still on top

Despite tepid results from traditionally strong Disney, the studio has generated more domestic ticket sales than any other studio this year so far.

Through June, Disney releases account for 30% of all domestic ticket sales, or $1.3 billion, according to data from Comscore.

The studio also has four of the top 10 highest-grossing domestic films so far this year.

The highest-grossing domestic films so far in 2023

  1. The Super Mario Bros. Movie (Universal) – $573.7 million
  2. “Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse” (Sony) – $357.6 million
  3. “Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3” (Disney) – $357.5 million
  4. “The Little Mermaid” (Disney) – $289.2 million
  5. “Avatar: The Way of Water” (Disney) – $283 million
  6. “Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania” (Disney) – $214.5 million
  7. John Wick: Chapter 4 (Lionsgate) – $187.1 million
  8. Creed III (MGM) – $156.2 million
  9. Transformers: Rise of the Monsters (Paramount) – $146.8 million
  10. “Fast X” (Universal) – $145.9 million

“As usual, it’s about the content,” said Polidoros.

It’s not yet clear if Disney’s upcoming releases, like “Haunted Mansion,” “The Marvels” or “Wish,” will be able to generate a record $1 billion, but a diverse slate bodes well for the company.

“2024 looks more promising on several fronts, and the animated original film ‘Wish’ could be a big hit later this year if it lives up to its potential with the audiences that helped make the ‘Frozen’ series so successful,” he said. Robins.

Upcoming Disney releases

  • “The Haunted Mansion” – July 28th
  • “Vacation Friends 2” – August 25th
  • “Bad Things” – September 8th
  • “Hunting in Venice” – September 15th
  • “Creator” – September 29th
  • “Marvels” – November 10th
  • “Next target wins” – November 17th
  • “Wish” – November 22
  • Dreams Magazine – December 8th

Disclosure: Comcast is the parent company of NBCUniversal and CNBC.



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