Despite some blockbuster hits, Hollywood’s box office continues on its downward trend as 2019 comes to a close.
Domestic revenues are expected to fall nearly 4 percent by year’s end; this according to The Hollywood Reporter. The box-office total of this past fall not only constitutes the sharpest decline in five years, it is also the fifth downturn this decade.
Executives in Hollywood are assuming that the decline is mostly due to new home entertainment technology and the rise of streaming services, including Netflix, Hulu, and Disney+. However, the content of much of the entertainment product that is being produced these days simply does not seem to be connecting with American filmgoers.
Disney is proving to be the major exception to this rule. The company’s product is not only resonating with the movie-going public, it is stamping out the competition in a big way.
The top 10 films of the year brought to the industry 38% of domestic ticket sales (up from 33% in 2018). Disney contributed an unprecedented 80 percent of the product, meaning eight out of the top 10 biggest revenue generators in the domestic box office were brought to you courtesy of the Mouse House.
The growth of the company that Walt Disney founded continues on an upward trajectory. Disney had a record-breaking year in 2016 and during that time period accounted for 6 of the top 10 highest grossing domestic films. The company made 4 out of the top 10 in 2017, 5 in 2018, and then jumped to 8 in 2019.
The Disney releases “Avengers: Endgame,” “The Lion King,” “Captain Marvel,” “Toy Story 4,” “Frozen II,” “Spider-Man: Far from Home” (shared by Disney and Sony), “Aladdin,” and “Star Wars: Episode IX – The Rise of Skywalker” have propelled the company to $3.8 billion domestically and over $10 billion in global box-office revenue, a record breaking number for Disney or for any other Hollywood studio.
Although some have criticized the cost of acquiring Lucasfilm and Marvel, in hindsight the purchases were bargains. But even with Disney’s blockbuster year, including the highest grossing movie of all time “Avengers: Endgame,” Hollywood is watching the overall domestic gross for movies head south.
No doubt the introduction of elaborate home theaters equipped with big screens, high definition technology, surround sound audio, and streaming of content directly into homes has been a factor in the overall impact that is being felt in the entertainment industry and beyond.
However, the effect has not been great enough to alter content creators’ perception, or for that matter to make them even question the themes that are being shoehorned into a whole lot of the entertainment product.
Because streaming is being used more as a distribution alternative, especially for smaller budgeted studio films, the big budget blockbuster has become the stock-in-trade for movie theater owners.
Some in the entertainment world are concerned by a new approach, which is that streaming services, with the acquiescence of producers, are debuting new films online rather than in brick and mortar movie theaters. This is causing a drop in traditional movie theater ticket sales.
Ironically, Disney has embraced the direct to streaming approach with “Noelle,” a Christmas comedy starring Anna Kendrick, and the “Lady and the Tramp” remake, both of which bypassed the multiplex and went straight to Disney+, the studio’s new streaming service.
“The Irishman,” an Oscar buzz offering from Martin Scorsese, was streamed by Netflix after less than a month had passed. The streaming giant similarly started to stream “Marriage Story” after only one month. Both films are getting the awards talk that Netflix undoubtedly wanted. Nevertheless, the impact at the box office has been underwhelming.
Because the overall ticket revenue outside of the United States will likely be the same or greater than last year’s $41.1 billion, Hollywood will pay even more attention next year to the global consumers of entertainment, particularly the biggest overseas film market. For all those who are keeping tabs, that would be China.