Coming off a banner $11.9B at the domestic B.O. and $41.7B worldwide in 2018, this year’s theatrical tickets sales aren’t anything to get excited about: The winter B.O. stateside for the period of Jan. 1-Feb. 18 at $1.2B is the lowest start since 2011 per ComScore, and this year’s Presidents Day four-day holiday frame at $148.5M (ComScore+Deadline estimate) is the lowest since 2001.
While Wall Street is bound to scream “Sell! Sell!” in regards to exhibition stocks, rub their chins and downgrade the industry, we need to remember that the motion picture business has a high standard deviation, and a small sample size like seven weeks is meaningless and not indicative of the rest of the year. As we explained at the end of a downer summer in 2017, which arrived after a hot January-April frame that included Beauty and the Beast, Logan and Fate of the Furious, people didn’t just change their moviegoing habits and abandon the cinema during the May-August frame. It’s a product-driven business, and with Disney moving its Marvel title Captain Marvel (which is expected to clock north of $100M) to March, it stands to reason that we’d be down greatly, especially when we’re comparing this winter to the Black Panther one a year ago.
After a few months of poor box office during the summer of 2017, the mainstream press was writing that the theatrical business was in a downward spiral and moviegoing as we know it might be over. Then the fall and holiday releases were extremely profitable, causing 2017 to deliver the third $11B-plus grossing domestic year in a row.
It would be shocking if the aggregate box office doesn’t set another worldwide record this year, especially with such titles on deck as Marvel’s Avengers: Endgame; Disney’s The Lion King, Toy Story 4 and Star Wars: Episode IX; Sony’s Spider-Man: Far From Home and Jumanji 2; Universal’s Cats, Hobbs & Shaw and The Secret Life of Pets 2; Fox’s Dark Phoenix; and Warner Bros’ The Joker and It: Chapter Two.
“In six weeks we’ll be singing a different tune,” says ComScore media analyst Paul Dergarabedian about a March that’s filled with Captain Marvel, Jordan Peele’s Us and Disney’s Dumbo.
While Alita: Battle Angel‘s opening was far from a blockbuster start, Fox is over the moon that the James Cameron production’s $43M five-day is exceeding some tracking services’ late -week projections by 53%. Given the pic’s cinematic dazzle, high-ticket premium services such as 3D drove 47% of the box office, with Imax repping 15%. Fox will have a hold on a majority of the PLFs, Dolbys, and Imax hubs until Captain Marvel arrives on March 8.
More than sour ticket sales this winter, major studio sources continually have been griping about tracking being off. Note that it’s common for tracking to be off when predicting a $100M-plus weekend for a four-quad movie; the sample size of such titles is small historically. But it has been odd to see a number of low- to-midrange projections being off this season. On the Thursday before its opening day, tracking had Universal/BVI/Blumhouse’s Glass between $57M-$60M over four days; the M. Night Shyamalan feature opened to $46.5M. Warner Bros.’ The Lego Movie 2: The Second Part was projected at $53M and came in at $34.1M. This past weekend, aside from Alita besting its tracking (note, there was a flood of ads online and on broadcast TV, which was a catalyst for business), Universal/Blumhouse’s Happy Death Day 2U came in far less than its $23M-$30M with $14.7M over six days. On a better note, New Line’s Isn’t It Romantic? came in pretty close to its $23M projected six-day with $22.8M.