2015 Box Office Totals a Record $11 Billion

by Brad Brevet

December 30, 2015

With two days left in 2015, the overall domestic box office for the calendar year has crossed $11 billion for the first time ever. The record pace at which Star Wars: The Force Awakens has reached $600+ million over the last twelve days was obviously the push the box office needed to reach that mark, but it wasn't alone in making an impact on the year.

Ten films made over $200 million at the 2015 box office, with previous opening weekend record holder Jurassic World currently the year's highest grossing film with over $652 million. Star Wars will likely pass that total over the next couple of days, making it the 2015 domestic champion before moving on to pass Avatar's all-time domestic record, perhaps as soon as the end of this coming weekend.

The $11+ billion grossed in 2015 bests the 2013 total of $10.9 billion when The Hunger Games: Catching Fire led the box office. In order to hit that mark a host of records were broken.

One of the year's biggest achievements finds a 2014 release earning a spot in the 2015 calendar year top ten. Clint Eastwood's American Sniper opened in four theaters on Christmas Day in 2014, but it wasn't until January 16, 2015 that it expanded and broke the January opening weekend record. With a domestic total of over $350 million, 99.6% of American Sniper's domestic box office was earned in 2015.

Beyond American Sniper's record breaking weekend in January, Fifty Shades of Grey broke the opening weekend record in February, Furious 7 broke the April opening weekend record, Jurassic World broke the June opening weekend record, Hotel Transylvania 2 broke the September opening weekend record and Star Wars: The Force Awakens broke the December and all-time opening weekend records among several others. And don't forget, Avengers: Age of Ultron fell just shy of the May opening weekend record with a massive $191.2 million opening, $16.1 million short of its record holding predecessor.

While Disney has enjoyed their share of hits over the course of the year it was Universal that came out on top of the studio charts, accounting for approximately 21.6% of the 2015 box office total. Disney was a close second with 19.2% of the market share followed by Warner Bros (14.1%) and 20th Century Fox (11.3%). Universal more than doubled the amount of money the studio made in 2014, grossing over $2.4 billion this year thanks to chart toppers such as Jurassic World, Furious 7 and Minions, all of which made over $330 million.

Of course, sky-rocketing ticket prices and the top-heavy nature of the 2015 box office shouldn't be overlooked. You have to go all the way back to 2001 to find a calendar year where fewer films made over $25 million, all while the average ticket price has climbed from $5.66 in 2001 to $8.34 in 2015.

In 2001, only 91 films made over $25 million while 2015 boasts only 95. Additionally, 34.5% of 2015's box office is attributable to the year's top ten films. Looking at the past 15 years, no other year has seen the top ten account for more than 30% of the overall calendar box office, the closest being 2012 when 29.7% of the year's $10.8 billion was generated by the top ten films, led by The Avengers' $623.3 million. However, during that same time period, 2012 boasted the largest number of films to cross $25 million in a calendar year with 113. The average number of films making $25M+ in a calendar year during that time frame is 104, which begs the question as to whether this is a "one off" year or if subsequent years are only going to continue to get more and more top heavy.

Based on average ticket prices, 2015 ranks 18th out of the last 36 years with an estimated 1.32 billion tickets sold. Top of the list is 2002 with an estimated 1.575 billion tickets sold when the average ticket price was $5.81. Spider-Man topped the box office in 2002, a year where 105 films made over $25 million and the top ten accounted for 25.7% of the year's overall gross. All of these stats are before adjusting for inflation and no one is expecting ticket prices to fall in 2016, so perhaps $11+ billion a year will become the new norm. On top of that, the major studios aren't slowing down when it comes to focusing a vast majority of their attention on a large slate of sequels and blockbusters, all of which are hoping for their own place in the record books.

The first 100M+ opening in 2015 was Furious 7 in April, but it could come a few weeks earlier in 2016 as Warner Bros. preps Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice for a late March release, the same weekend that saw the first The Hunger Games bring in $152.5 million back in 2012. From there we can look forward to several franchise sequels, franchise hopefuls and not to forget the next installment in a string of many more Star Wars movies in the form of Rogue One next December.

Prior to the release of The Force Awakens we noted how much the industry has changed in not only the 38 years since the first Star Wars film was released, but in just the last six, since Avatar blew away box office records. Now, the gap has closed even further and we won't have to wait long to see how much more the marketplace will change in the coming year.

For added perspective, more than 55 of the box office records tracked by BoxOfficeMojo were broken in 2015... the question is, how many of those will be broken in 2016?

Here's a look at the 2015 top ten for this calendar year:

  • Jurassic World - $652,270,625
  • Star Wars: The Force Awakens - $600,949,526
  • Avengers: Age of Ultron - $459,005,868
  • Inside Out - $356,461,711
  • Furious 7 - $353,007,020
  • American Sniper - $348,797,073
  • Minions - $336,045,770
  • The Hunger Games: Mockingjay - Part 2 - $267,244,461
  • The Martian - $225,099,234
  • Cinderella - $201,151,353

For the complete chart click here.

Discuss this story with fellow Box Office Mojo fans on Facebook. On Twitter, follow us at @boxofficemojo and author Brad Brevet at @bradbrevet.

9/20 'House With A Clock In Its Walls' Looks to Top Soft Weekend
9/16 'The Predator' is #1 With Soft $24M, While 'Meg', 'Hotel Transylvania 3' & 'M:I 6' Hit Milestones
9/13 'The Predator' Targets Weekend #1; 'Simple Favor', 'White Boy Rick' & 'Unbroken' Also Debut
9/11 Summer 2018 Delivers $4.38 Billion in Domestic Grosses, Keeping Year on Record Pace
9/9 'The Nun' Delivers 'Conjuring' Franchise Record, $131 Million Global Debut
9/6 'The Nun' Looks to Scare Up a 'Conjuring' Universe Opening Weekend Record
> MORE: News | Features
DAILY: Wednesday, 9/19 (40 tracked)
DAILY: Tuesday, 9/18 (41 tracked)
New MPAA Ratings Added
DAILY: Monday, 9/17 (40 tracked)
WEEKEND: Weekend Actuals, 'The Predator' #1
DAILY: Friday, 'The Predator' #1
DAILY: Thursday 9/13 (55 tracked)
WEEKLY: 'The Nun' Tops the Week with $66.87m