A Look Back at 2018's Record Year at the Domestic Box Office
by Brad Brevet
January 30, 2019
December 2018 closed out a record year at the domestic box office, and while it was only the fourth largest December of all-time, it was the first December in four years to not feature a new Star Wars release. Considering Star Wars: The Force Awakens accounted for as much as 50% of December 2015's grosses and The Last Jedi made up 39% of last year's record performance for the month, December 2018's $1.068 billion in calendar grosses is an impressive performance with Warner Bros.'s global sensation Aquaman leading the way. That said, while December may not have reached record heights for the month, it closed off the highest grossing year ever at the domestic box office, with ticket sales falling just shy of $11.9 billion, of which Disney delivered a record $3.092 billion all on its own.
WALT DISNEY - $3.092B domestically in 2018 from 13 total movies
Disney's 2018 performance saw the studio account for ~26% of the year's overall domestic market with a record $3.092 billion from 13 films, including ten new releases. The performance is ~$91.5 million larger than their previous record haul in 2016, which was the first time Disney topped $3 billion in domestic grosses making Disney the only studio to have ever topped $3 billion at the domestic box office not once, but now twice. More impressive is achieving that mark from just 13 movies whereas 16 films attributed to 2016's total, 13 of which were new releases.
Of Disney's 2018 total, Marvel's Black Panther and its $700 million in domestic ticket sales led the studio's slate as well as the yearly box office. The film ranks as the #1 comic book adaptation of all-time, and it also delivered largest February and winter opening weekend of all-time, and largest President's Day opening. In fact, Disney delivered the top three movies at the 2018 box office with Black Panther ($700m), Avengers: Infinity War ($678.8m) and Incredibles 2 ($608.5m), the latter of which is now the highest grossing animated release of all-time domestically. And not only did those three films top the yearly box office, they rank as the #3, #4 and #9 highest grossing films of all-time domestically respectively, and all three rank among the all-time top 15 releases worldwide.
Having already mentioned the lack of a new Star Wars release in December, that doesn't mean the year was without a Star Wars film. Beyond the studio's massive success for the year, one surprise was the lower-than-expected performance of Solo: A Star Wars Story, a film that carried a reported $275 million budget and was only able to recoup $213.7 million domestically and just over $390 million worldwide. Compared to the previous three Star Wars films released by Disney, Solo is by far the worst performer, delivering over $300 million less than Rogue One domestically and $663 million less worldwide. The Star Wars brand should see a major turnaround in 2019 and into 2020, however, with the December release of Star Wars: Episode IX, which sees Force Awakens director J.J. Abrams back at the helm to close out the newest trilogy in the franchise.
That said, the number one reason for Disney's massive 2018 performance comes from the three Marvel Studios titles it released in 2018. Along with the monster success of Black Panther and Avengers: Infinity War, Ant-Man and the Wasp brought in $216.6 million domestically giving the three films a combined $1.595 billion for the calendar year, accounting for over 51% of the studio's yearly domestic grosses. In fact, 2018 saw six* films released based on Marvel Comics properties, accounting for over $2.24 billion in domestic box office, nearly 19% of the year's overall calendar gross.
Overall, Disney posted a massive $7.325 billion worldwide, the second biggest year in industry history behind Disney's own 2016 record of $7.605 billion. Disney is the only studio to have ever topped $7 billion worldwide.
Looking ahead to 2019, it may seem as if it would be difficult to replicate or live up to such a monster year, but, beginning in March, Disney's 2019 slate is filled with so many major titles one can only assume a new record is only twelve months away. Opting to forego any new releases over the first two months of 2018, Disney's 2019 begins with Marvel's Captain Marvel in early March and will be followed by the likes of Dumbo (3/29), Avengers: Endgame (4/26), Aladdin (5/24), Toy Story 4 (6/21), The Lion King (7/19), Artemis Fowl (8/9), Frozen 2 (11/22) and, finally, Star Wars: Episode IX (12/20). The box office potential of those titles is staggering.
WARNER BROS. - $1.94B domestically in 2018 from 49 total movies
Warner Bros., which led the way in December with over $310 million, brought in over $1.94 billion in 2018, coming up just a bit shy of the studio's $2+ billion 2017 total, while serving as the studio's third highest grossing year ever at the domestic box office. Overseas, the studio's $3.62 billion international gross is a record for WB International and it results in a studio record, $5.57 billion in worldwide grosses.
Over the course of 2018, WB delivered nine films that topped $100 million at the domestic box office with the late year release of Aquaman leading the way with $199 million in 2018 and over $317 million overall. The film's massive international performance has also resulted in it becoming the first film in the DC Extended Universe to top $1 billion worldwide while also passing The Dark Knight Rises to become the highest grossing worldwide release among DC Comics adaptations with $1.092 billion in worldwide grosses and counting.
Beyond the success of Aquaman, WB's A Star is Born actually served as the studio's highest grossing film over the calendar year, pulling in over $201 million in 2018 alone. The film has since gone on to gross over $206 million at the domestic box office and over $413 million worldwide to go along with eight Oscar nominations. The mid-August release of Crazy Rich Asians went on to gross nearly $175 million as it broke ground as the first Asian-led, major Hollywood studio film to hit theaters since The Joy Luck Club 25 years ago. The success of Crazy Rich Asians saw the film finish as the sixth highest grossing romantic comedy of all-time domestically with plans for a sequel already underway.
WB saw six more films top $100 million domestically in 2018 including Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald ($159.1m and counting), The Meg ($145.44m), Ocean's 8 ($140.22m), Ready Player One ($137.69m), The Nun ($117.45m) and Rampage ($101.03m).
Looking ahead, WB has a 2019 slate with some strong contenders including The LEGO Movie 2: The Second Part (2/8), Shazam! (4/5), Detective Pikachu (5/10), Minecraft (5/24), Godzilla: King of the Monsters (5/31), Shaft (6/14), It: Chapter 2 (9/6), Joker (10/4), The Goldfinch (10/11) and another entry into the Conjuring Universe set for July 3.
SONY - $1.28B domestically in 2018 from 28 total movies
Sony delivered the third highest gross in December with $143.7 million while finishing fourth for the year overall with $1.28 billion in 2018 calendar grosses. While far from the $1.79 billion the studio brought in over its record year in 2012, the performance is the studio's best since then, their sixth highest of all-time and a +21.1% improvement over last year. Interestingly enough, Sony's top grossing 2018 title was actually 2017's Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle, which released on December 20, 2017 and brought in over $235 million of its $404.5 million domestic gross in 2018, $22.2 million more than the studio's early October release of Venom, which closed out its domestic run only a week ago with $213.5 million domestically and over $855 million worldwide, serving as the studio's sixth highest grossing worldwide release of all-time.
Leading the studio's crop of titles in December was the mid-month release of Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse, which delivered over $108 million in December and has since grossed nearly $170 million, becoming Sony Animation's highest grossing domestic release ever, topping Hotel Transylvania 2's $169.7 million.
Sony's 2018 releases also saw four more films top $100 million for the calendar year, including Hotel Transylvania 3: Summer Vacation ($167.51m), Peter Rabbit ($115.25m) and The Equalizer 2 ($102.08m).
After seeing gains in domestic box office over the last two years, Sony will make a strong push to do the same in 2019 with releases that include Men in Black International (6/14) with Chris Hemsworth and Tessa Thompson, Spider-Man: Far from Home (7/5), Quentin Tarantino's Once Upon a Time in Hollywood (7/26) with Leonardo DiCaprio and Brad Pitt, The Angry Birds Movie 2 (8/16), Zombieland 2 (10/11), Tom Hanks as Mister Rogers in A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood (10/18), a reboot of Charlie's Angels (11/1), the Jumanji Sequel (12/13) and, finally, Greta Gerwig's adaptation of Little Women set for a Christmas Day release.
UNIVERSAL - $1.96B domestically in 2018 from 38 total movies**
Universal finished fourth for the month of December with $122.7 million and finished as the second highest grossing studio in 2018 with $1.959 billion**, the studio's second highest grossing domestic performance of all-time. Leading Universal's slate was the sequel Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom with $417.7 million domestically and over $1.3 billion worldwide. The film, however, fell over $200 million shy of its 2015 predecessor domestically, though still ranks as the fourth highest grossing release of the year and the 12th largest worldwide release of all-time.
Highlights from the rest of Universal's 2018 include Illumination's The Grinch, which delivered over $266 million in 2018 and has since become the animation house's fourth largest domestic release while delivering over $508 million worldwide. The year also included the monster release of Halloween with nearly $160 million domestically followed by Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again ($120.6m) and Fifty Shades Freed, which brought in just over $100 million, propelling the franchise's total domestic gross over $381 million and a combined worldwide total just shy of $1.325 billion.
Looking ahead, Universal's slate of films in 2019 features sequels such as the studio's first film under their new deal with DreamWorks Animation, How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World (2/22), along with Illumination's The Secret Life of Pets 2 (6/7) and Hobbs & Shaw (8/2) featuring Dwayne Johnson and Jason Statham as their respective Fast and Furious franchise characters. Jordan Peele also returns to the director's chair with Us (3/22), his highly anticipated follow-up to the 2017 smash hit Get Out, to go along with a myriad of other upcoming Blumhouse Productions releases that currently includes three, as yet untitled films as well as the February release of Happy Death Day 2U (2/13).
20th CENTURY FOX - $1.08B domestically in 2018 from 17 total movies
With $1.08 billion, 20th Century Fox was the fifth highest grossing studio for the year domestically, while if you include grosses from Fox Searchlight and Fox International Pictures, that total blossoms to $1.236 billion. Leading the studio's calendar year was Deadpool 2 with over $318 million before you include the over $6 million the PG-13 re-release of Once Upon a Deadpool, which pushes the film's current domestic total just shy of $325 million domestically and nearly $770 million worldwide, both totals coming up just a bit shy of the original Deadpool's grosses from 2016.
The studio also enjoyed nearly $190 million from the early November release of Bohemian Rhapsody, which has gone on to gross over $206 million domestically so far and over $817 million worldwide. The only other release that brought in over $100 million in 2018 for the studio was another 2017 title, the hit musical The Greatest Showman, which brought in $125.3 million — 72% of its overall domestic gross ($174.3m) — in 2018.
As for what the future holds, 2019 will be an interesting year for Fox as they find themselves folded into Disney, a move that has early reports saying the studio may not have its own presentation at this year's CinemaCon event in Las Vegas. As for its slate of films, upcoming titles include a pair of Marvel Comics releases in Dark Phoenix (6/7) and New Mutants (8/2) as well as the big budgeted feature Alita: Battle Angel (2/14). Additional releases include James Gray's sci-fi feature Ad Astra (5/24) starring Brad Pitt, James Mangold's Ford v. Ferrari (6/28) pic, the animated feature Spies in Disguise (9/13), a third film in the Kingsman franchise (11/15), the adaptation of A.J. Finn's bestselling novel The Woman in the Window (10/4) and the animated feature The Call of the Wild (12/25) from How to Train Your Dragon director Chris Sanders.
PARAMOUNT - $757M domestically in 2018 from 12 total movies
Paramount finished the year with just over $757 million, a +$222.7 million increase over last year's dismal performance, which marked the studio's worst performance in over 20 years. And while the studio's 2018 grosses don't live up to its peers, they are a move in the right direction. Leading Paramount's 2018 slate was Mission: Impossible - Fallout, which delivered over $220 million domestically and over $791 million worldwide, both serving as franchise records making it no surprise director Christopher McQuarrie has signed on to direct back-to-back sequels, the first debuting in summer 2021. The studio's other major 2018 highlight was the early April release of the horror feature A Quiet Place, which debuted with over $50 million and finished its run with $188 million domestically and over $340 million worldwide. It too already has a sequel in production, set to debut in May 2020.
The studio also enjoyed a strong performance from the female-led comedy Book Club, which debuted with $13.5 million and went on to gross over $68.5 million domestically, a 5x multiplier.
Looking ahead to 2019, Paramount's year kicks off with the Taraji P. Henson comedy What Men Want (2/8) after which they'll hope to take advantage of the latest Stephen King craze with the remake of Pet Sematary (4/5) while hoping to find the same success as Bohemian Rhapsody with their Elton John biopic Rocketman (5/31). Later in the year the studio will debut Ang Lee's sci-fi feature Gemini Man (10/4) starring Will Smith, and in November we'll see the latest attempt to reboot the Terminator franchise with an as-yet Untitled Terminator Project set for November 1 with Linda Hamilton returning to her iconic role as Sarah Connor and Arnold Schwarzenegger back as the Terminator. Families will be the target audience with Dora the Explorer (8/2) and in terms of animation Paramount has Wonder Park (3/15) and the SEGA video game adaptation, Sonic The Hedgehog (11/8).
There are several other titles that also deserve mention such as Roadside's monster hit I Can Only Imagine ($83.48m), MGM's Creed II ($115m and counting), A24's Hereditary ($44.07m) Sony's Searching ($26.02m) and the massive success of documentaries in 2018 led by Focus's Won't You Be My Neighbor? ($22.84m). We, however, wanted to point out how 2018 was the first year BoxOfficeMojo collected data on a full year of Fathom grosses.
Fathom, the distributor known for its event-style releases was the distributor of record on 149 titles in 2018, grossing over $64 million, and leading that crop of titles was the broadcast of the Metropolitan Opera's Tosca, which brought in just over $2 million from just two days in release. In fact, the Met Opera presentations accounted for 17 of Fathom's releases in 2018 (including encore presentations), delivering over $17 million in domestic grosses. Additionally, the studio's Ghibli Fest, featuring nine of the animation house's past releases, brought in nearly $7 million, led by the July release of Princess Mononoke, which delivered over $1.4 million over three days in release. Overall, Fathom ranked as the 14th highest grossing studio domestically in 2018.
Overall, 2018 saw calendar grosses reach a record $11.888 billion at the domestic box office from 871 movies. Based on average ticket prices throughout the year this works out to 1.305 billion in estimated tickets sold, which is a +5.7% improvement over last year, but still ranks as the 20th largest year ever. A snapshot of the studio's mentioned above shows the following performances domestically, internationally and worldwide.
2018 DOMESTIC PERFORMANCE
- Disney - $3,092.38m
- Universal - $1,959.76m**
- Warner Bros. - $1,940.69m
- Sony - $1,283.72m
- Fox - $1,082.34m
- Paramount - $757.m
2018 INTERNATIONAL PERFORMANCE
- Disney - $4,233.1m
- Warner Bros. - $3,620.m
- Universal - $2,924.9m
- Fox - $2,390.m
- Sony - $2,334.m
- Paramount - $978.25m
2018 WORLDWIDE PERFORMANCE
- Disney - $7,325.48m
- Warner Bros. - $5,560.69m
- Universal - $4,884.66m
- Sony - $3,617.72m
- Fox - $3,472.34m
- Paramount - $1,735.25m
Finally, with 2018 now behind us, below is a list of the top twenty films at the 2018 box office based on calendar grosses.
- Black Panther (Disney) - $700.06m
- Avengers: Infinity War (Disney) - $678.82m
- Incredibles 2 (Disney) - $608.58m
- Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom (Uni.) - $417.72m
- Deadpool 2 (Fox) - $318.49m
- Dr. Seuss' The Grinch (Uni.) - $266.28m
- Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle (Sony) - $235.51m
- Mission: Impossible - Fallout (Par.) - $220.16m
- Ant-Man and the Wasp (Disney) - $216.65m
- Solo: A Star Wars Story (Disney) - $213.77m
- Venom (Sony) - $213.31m
- A Star is Born (WB) - $201.16m
- Aquaman (WB) - $199.06m
- Bohemian Rhapsody (Fox) - $189.81m
- A Quiet Place (Par.) - $188.02m
- Ralph Breaks the Internet (Disney) - $177.62m
- Crazy Rich Asians (WB) - $174.04m
- Hotel Transylvania 3: Summer Vacation (Sony) - $167.51m
- Halloween (Uni.) - $159.34m
- Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald (WB) - $156.78m
For a look at the full list click here. You can also find the top grossing releases of 2018 here and the top ranking worldwide grosses of 2018 here.
* Seven if you consider Once Upon a Deadpool a separate film
** Includes Focus and OTL releases