In a year that’s seen the highest-grossing film in global history knock Avatar off its 10-year perch, Box Office receipts have reached a massive $11.5bn in the U.S. alone. It’s the 2nd largest amount ever after 2018, and marks an end of a decade rife with cinematic change. However, looking under 2019’s bonnet reveals a significant 4% fall from last year’s $11.9bn gross – a drop that marks the largest year-on-year since 2014.
The all-too-real threat of streaming services have created a seismic shift in the way we watch film, with less ground left for the middle-budget movies in cinema as the tectonic plates move towards low-risk microbudgets, and large, property-based blockbusters. Disney’s acquisition of Fox only goes to show the power of the property, and their introduction of Disney+ indicates their need for having hands in multiple pots.
But within this lies opportunities for films to break-out and truly shine against the middling expectations. Who, for instance, foresaw the entirely original ‘Knives Out’ breaking the $200m mark globally, or an ‘Escape Room’ sequel being greenlit only a month after release? Similarly, the popular IP-based ‘X-Men’ and ‘Terminator’ delivered some of the biggest bombs of the year.
So how was 2019 at the Box Office? Interesting to say the least. Below are our picks for the best, the worst, and surprising performances from the last 12 months of the decade.
Performance of the Year
John Wick: Chapter 3 – Parabellum (Domestic Total: $171.0m – Worldwide Total: $326.7m – Budget: $75m)
The Lion King ($543.6m – $1.66bn – $250m)
Hustlers ($105.0m – $156.6m – $21m)
Joker ($333.5m and counting- $1.06bn and counting- $55m)
Knives Out ($110.3m and counting – $215.5m and counting – $40m)
Avengers: Endgame (Domestic Total: $858.4m – Worldwide Total: $2.80bn – Budget: $356m).
We were debating giving this award to ‘Joker’, as its unprecedented $330m domestic performance (not to mention its $1.06bn global gross) was nothing short of majestic, especially for an R-rated film. However, it’s difficult to look past the biggest movie the world has ever seen.
Here’s some perspective: ‘Endgame’s $357m 3-day stateside opening not only beats ‘Joker’s entire domestic total but would be the 50th biggest U.S. gross if its run ended after its 1st Sunday. It didn’t of course, and instead went onto earn $860m – with only ‘The Force Awakens’ billing more in U.S history.
Let’s not forget about its incredible overseas performance too. The film opened to a frankly mind-boggling $1.2bn, doubling ‘Infinity War’s $641m opening record from 12 months before. It then went onto gross $2.8bn worldwide, finally overtaking ‘Avatar’ as the biggest film of all time, a perfect way to end the decade. A fitting tribute too, to the rise in power of the cinematic universe, and of course, the superhero genre.
Flop of the Year
Cats (Domestic Total: $17.8m and counting – Worldwide Total: $37.0m and counting– Budget: $100m)
The Goldfinch ($5.3m – $9.9m – $45m)
Terminator: Dark Fate ($62.3m – $261.1m – $185m)
Charlie’s Angels ($17.7m – $57.7m – $48m)
Playmobil: The Movie ($1.1m – $13.8m – $40m)
X-Men: Dark Phoenix ($65.8m – $252.4m – $200m)
There was once a time when the X-Men series was arguably the biggest, most eagerly-anticipated superhero franchise in cinema. There was also a time when a critically-acclaimed reboot signalled a bright future for the films, after a few duller entrants. Now, 20 years on from the 1st instalment, it’s safe to say that the group of mutants we know and love, won’t be gracing our screens in their current iteration any longer.
Dark Phoenix bombed on entry, with a $32.8m opening unfit for a $200m superhero movie. The fact that its domestic total equalled the 3-day start of predecessor ‘Apocalypse’ is a damning stat, and so is the likelihood of the film losing north of $100m for studio 20th Century Fox. Disney’s acquisition couldn’t come quicker, as many The Mouse will soon incorporate the series into its own mega-franchise, the MCU.
Yesterday (Domestic Total: $73.3m – Worldwide Total: $151.3m – Budget: $26m)
Aladdin ($355.6m – $1.05bn – $183m)
Escape Room ($57.0m – $155.7m – $9m)
The Upside ($108.3m – $125.9m – $38m)
Knives Out ($110.3m and counting – $215.5m and counting – $40m)
Hustlers ($105.0m – $157.1m – $21m)
Although this film isn’t technically original (it’s based off 2015 New York article), the sheer ambition and freshness from director Lorene Scafaria made this crime drama feel brand new. Jennifer Lopez’s performance, its 88% on Rotten Tomatoes, and empowering plot made this a must-watch, but its $33.2m opening still surprised many.
It then hustled a 3.2x opening weekend multiplier, in the midst of It: Chapter Two, Downton Abbey, and other releases that historically would eat into the numbers of most films. It marked a high for STX Entertainment – the studio’s 3rd highest grossing film ever – and also a challenge to other producers: middle-budget films don’t just have to be for Netflix.
The Unfortunate Bomb
The Kid Who Would Be King (Domestic Total: $16.8m – Worldwide Total: $32.1m – Budget: $59m)
Richard Jewell ($15.3m and counting – $45m)
Ad Astra ($50.2m – $127.2m – $80m)
Doctor Sleep ($31.5m – $71.8m – $50m)
Blinded by the Light ($11.9m – $18.0m – $15m)
Missing Link ($16.6m – $26.2m – $100m)
It’s difficult to say just how much money ‘Missing Link’ lost for Laika and UAR. It’s over-inflated $100m budget is almost too big to make sense, especially considering Laika has never produced a film topping $150m at the Box Office (and none of their previous films have cost over $60m to produce).
But what really frustrates is just how good the film actually is. Critics called it ‘beautiful’, ‘charming’, and ‘artistic’, with audiences bestowing a strong B+ on Cinemascore. Yet, nobody really saw it, and one of the best animated films of the year, featuring the voices of everybody from Hugh Jackman and Emma Thompson, to Stephen Fry and Zoe Saldana, came and went without a whisper.
Box Office Star of the Year
Chris Evans (‘Avengers: Endgame’, ‘Knives Out’)
Kevin Hart (‘The Upside’, ‘The Secret Life of Pets 2’, ‘Jumanji: The Next Level’)
Dwayne Johnson (‘Fighting With My Family’, ‘Hobbs & Shaw’, ‘Jumanji: The Next Level’)
Samuel L. Jackson (‘Glass’, ‘Captain Marvel’, ‘Shaft’, ‘Spider-Man: Far From Home’)
Keanu Reeves (‘Replicas’, ‘Toy Story 4’, ‘John Wick: Chapter 3 – Parabellum’)
Lupita Nyong’o (‘Us’, ‘Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker’)
It’s no easy feat to lead the biggest original release of the year, but Lupita Nyong’o’s captivating/terrifying dual performance as Adelaide Wilson/Red helped Us bring in close to $260m globally.
We could’ve easily have gone with the easy option in Chris Evans, who shined in both Knives Out and Endgame, but Lupita was able to make her mark in the cheaper, more divisive Blumhouse horror, that earned a whopping $175m stateside from a March release.
Lupita’s currently in the early stages of awards season, having picked up the AAF Critics Association Best Actress prize, and is in contention for awards from the AWFJ, BRAs, Chicago Film Critics Association, Critics’ Choice, Hollywood Critics, SAGAs, and many many more. We’ll just include the ‘JUMPCUT Box Office Star of the Year’ award in there, too.
Box Office Year to Forget
Patrick Stewart (‘Charlie’s Angels’, ‘The Kid Who Would Be King’)
O’Shea Jackson Jr (‘Long Shot’, ‘Godzilla: King of the Monsters’, ‘Just Mercy’)
Paul Walter Hauser (‘Late Night’, ‘Richard Jewell’, ‘Beats’)
Jon Hamm (‘The Report’, ‘Lucy in the Sky’, ‘Richard Jewell’)
Elizabeth Banks (‘The Lego Movie 2: The Second Part’, ‘Brightburn’, ‘Charlie’s Angels’)
Rebecca Ferguson (‘Doctor Sleep’, ‘The Kid Who Would Be King’, Men in Black: International’)
It’s a little tough to realise that you’ve had a disappointing year at the Box Office when your 3 films have earned a combined $130m domestically and $360m worldwide. It’s even tougher when 2 of the films were critically acclaimed and loved by the (few) cinemagoers who saw it.
Rebecca Ferguson’s year at the Box Office has been an unfortunate setback, characterised by a family favourite whose IP doesn’t seem to translate to the big screen (remember 2017’s King Arthur?), a sequel to a 40-year-old horror, and an unnecessary reboot to a comic book franchise that should’ve ended in 1997. Let’s hope her next release ‘Dune’, the Warner Bros epic scheduled for a Christmas 2020 release, can start the new decade on a high for the Golden Globe-nominated actress.
There was never any doubt, surely?
Disney ended the year with a 34% market share of the domestic Box Office – a whopping $3.7bn in ticket sales. It’s a total that not only smashes their $3.1bn record from last year, but includes an incredible 6 (soon to be 7 with ‘The Rise of Skywalker’) films that broke the billion-dollar barrier.
The media giant produced a number of consistent hits, all based on beloved property, that appealed to a range of audiences across the U.S. Whether it was the further development of renowned animated franchises in Toy Story 4, and Frozen 2, realistic adaptations of family classics in Aladdin and The Lion King, or the comic book superhero blockbusters in Captain Marvel and Endgame, Disney connected with a variety of audiences for their biggest year yet.
Even their misfires (we’re looking at you, Dumbo and Malificent 2) easily breached the $100m mark globally, while their absorption of 20th Century Fox (making it a 38% market share) and release of Disney+ allows them to remain all the more competitive in an ever-changing marketplace. Like them or loathe them, Disney won in 2019.
We’ve given Warner Bros a tough time this year, and they were spared this prize by the incredible performances of 2 of their Q3, R-rated flicks: It Chapter 2 and especially Joker, which greatly helped the studio in earning $1.6bn domestically. Paramount had no such luck, with the studio seeing an unfortunate 26% fall in domestic revenue from 2018, to just $560m.
The studio’s joy this year was fleeting, peaking with Rocketman’s $96.4m domestic gross back in the summer. Its lows were more pronounced: the disappointments of Dora and the Lost City of Gold, Gemini Man, and Playing With Fire culminated in the James Cameron-bomb Terminator: Dark Fate.
While last year saw 3 films in Bumblebee, A Quiet Place, and Mission Impossible 6 all break the $100m barrier, 2019 is the 1st year in the studio’s recent memory to not have any film reach a century in stateside billings. And to think, this was the same distributor that brought us ‘The Avengers’ in 2012.