Fresh superheroes — Aquaman, Black Panther, Venom, the Wasp — and new twists on classic big-screen formulas delivered a box office comeback for Hollywood in 2018. Ticket sales in the United States and Canada will total roughly $11.8 billion (Dh43.33 billion) for the year, analysts say — a 6 per cent increase from 2017.
Hollywood had a terrible 2017, when attendance fell to a two-decade low. Some box office watchers concluded that the increasing popularity of streaming services were keeping people at home.
But this year? Netflix appears to be less a worry.
“The narrative that streaming is killing theatrical is really overused and misleading,” said Phil Contrino, director of media and research for the National Association of Theatre Owners. “The entertainment industry isn’t a zero-sum game. People who consume a lot of content do so across multiple platforms, and when there are really strong movies in theatres, they will show up.”
Between Friday and Sunday, ‘Aquaman’ (Warner Bros.) arrived to $67.4 million in North American ticket sales, enough for first place and adding a new megawatt superhero, played by Jason Momoa, to the studio canon. Sneak-peek screenings added $4.7 million.
Critics gave the PG-13 fantasy mixed reviews, but ticket buyers gave it an A-minus grade in CinemaScore exit polls — evidence that Warner’s effort to make its DC Comics-based superhero movies more consistently accessible and distinctive is paying off. The studio spent an estimated $350 million on production and marketing for ‘Aquaman’, which also stars Amber Heard and was directed by James Wan.
Overseas, ‘Aquaman’ has collected an additional $410.7 million since rolling out in China on December 7.
Walt Disney Studios had the three biggest movies of the year — by a long shot. ‘Black Panther’, which combined, for the first time, an African-American cast with the enormous scale of modern franchise filmmaking, was the runaway leader, collecting $700 million in North America and $1.35 billion worldwide. ‘Avengers: Infinity War’ was second, taking in $678.8 million ($2.05 billion), and ‘Incredibles 2’ ranked third, with domestic ticket sales of $608.6 million ($1.24 billion).
Other superhero movies that did well have included ‘Venom’, about a Spider-Man villain. That Sony film blew past pre-release expectations to collect $213 million at the domestic box office and $854.5 million worldwide. A sequel is already on the way.
There were notable disappointments — ‘Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald’, ‘Solo: A Star Wars Story’ and ‘A Wrinkle in Time’, among them. But studios also breathed fresh life into the romantic comedy, one of moviedom’s most timework genres, by focusing on diversity: ‘Crazy Rich Asians’, greeted as a watershed moment by many Asian-Americans, took in a stout $174 million in North America ($238 million worldwide). A new version of ‘A Star Is Born’ — the fourth, including the 1937 original — gave Lady Gaga her first starring role in a film and generated $200 million ($382 million).
And a horror movie with almost no dialogue, ‘A Quiet Place’, became a spring sensation. It sold $188 million in tickets ($340.7 million).
“For the most part, studios kept the momentum rolling weekend to weekend, which is the mark of a great year,” Dergarabedian said.