In recent years Disney has emerged as the Hollywood superpower when it comes to box office success. With control of major studios like Marvel, Lucasfilm, and Pixar – in addition to their own impressive library of intellectual property – they have the potential to set box office records every year – which is exactly what they did in 2018. The $3.09B that Disney films earned last year set the domestic box office record, buoyed by the success of Marvel Studios’ Black Panther, which made upwards of $700M in North America, and Avengers: Infinity War, which added $679M to the total. Globally, they fell just short of their own record of $7.61B in 2016 earning just $7.33B last year. But, if there were ever a year to shatter that record, it would be 2019. Disney’s lineup this year is nothing short of spectacular, featuring Marvel tentpoles, live-action remakes, animated sequels, and the final installment to the Star Wars sequel trilogy to cap it all off in December. At this point, it may not be a question of if Disney breaks their own record, but by how much?
That’s what we plan to find out. We’ve gone through the lineup, by release date, and given a projected total to each film that Disney will release in 2019 based on several factors including current box office trends, comps, release date, box office history, etc. With what we believe to be conservative projections, we don’t just expect Disney to set a new record this year, but they may also have a shot to be the first studio to break $10 billion at the global box office. Let’s get started…
- Captain Marvel
Release Date: March 6
Comps: Wonder Woman (2017): $821,847,012
Brie Larson enters the MCU as the titular Captain Marvel in the first female-led film in the franchise. This movie has a lot going for it: Brie Larson (obviously), young Nick Fury (portrayed by Samuel L. Jackson), and the formal introduction of the Skrulls into the MCU. We saw in 2017 that there is absolutely a market for the female superhero as Gal Gadot’s Wonder Woman earned over $820M – including an impressive $412M domestically. While it’s disappointing that Kevin Feige and co. waited so long, there’s no doubt that the timing of the first female Marvel solo film fits perfectly into his intricately weaved cinematic story. Captain Marvel will standalone but play into the after credits scene from Avengers: Infinity War and she will ultimately return to the screen just a month later in Endgame to help (half) the team deal with Thanos. We expect Captain Marvel to take advantage of a barren March, as it has almost the entire month to itself, and end its run somewhere around $815M. We don’t know if it will have the exceptionally long legs that Wonder Woman had in 2017 as the original Captain Marvel – DC’s Shazam! – hits theaters the first week of April and is followed closely by Avengers: Endgame. That’s a lot of superhero action in a small window.
Release Date: March 29
Comps: Mary Poppins Returns (2018): $318,604,010 [and counting]
Dumbo is one of the two films on this list that has us stumped. It’s hard to gauge the desire for a live-action remake of this 78 year old animated feature. We saw in 2018 that the actual demand for Mary Poppins Returns was never really able to match its social media hype. Like Mary Poppins Returns, we don’t know if Dumbo has the attention of Millennials and Gen Z’ers, and unlike The Jungle Book’s live action remake, it doesn’t boast a star-studded cast that will bring those audiences to the theaters. That being said, Tim Burton was tasked with bringing the beloved animated elephant to life, and judging by the official trailer for the film, his dark storytelling is a great fit for a fresh take on this story. That, combined with a solid cast – which includes Colin Farrell, Michael Keaton, Danny DeVito, and Eva Green – should make for nothing but a beautiful film. It’s late-March release date does put it in between Captain Marvel, Shazam!, and Avengers Endgame which is a lot of competition, but ultimately, we’re banking on the Disney brand and expecting this film to earn a very solid and respectable $525M globally.
3. Disney Nature’s Penguins
Release Date: April 17
Comps: Born in China (2017): $25,081,168; Bears (2014): $21,316,745
Penguins is the latest Earth Day feature from Disney Nature, something that has become a tradition for the studio. The educational documentary filmed in Antarctica creates a fun look at the life of Penguins in the area and should be expected to do as well as its predecessors, so we split the difference with an projection of around $22.5M.
4. Avengers: Endgame
Release Date: April 26
Comps: Avengers: Infinity War (2018): $2,048,359,754
This is the big one. The follow up to 2018’s top grossing movie, Avengers: Infinity War, Endgame will answer all of the questions and address the infamous ending of Infinity War in, we’re assuming [read: hoping], spectacular fashion. This is a film that’s 11 years in the making and will surely surpass $2B worldwide. Competition doesn’t matter when it comes to Endgame as this movie will be an event come late-April. Expect it to make at least as much as it’s predecessor, most likely surpassing it and setting some records of its own.
Release Date: May 24
Comps: Beauty and the Beast (2017): $1,263,521,126; The Jungle Book (2016): $966,550,600
Like it or not, Disney is going to continue making live-action remakes of beloved animated features forever. So far they they’ve seen nothing but great financial and commercial success for the studio and expect Aladdin to be no different. While the absence of the late, great Robin Williams will surely affect its final box office number – with several fans believing that this movie could (and maybe should) not be redone without him – Will Smith, though, will make for a great Genie. We expect Will to bring star-power to the title, while putting his own, new spin on the character. Naomi Scott (Power Rangers) will play Princess Jasmine, a decision that caught the ire of some fans, believing the role of the middle eastern princess was whitewashed – if that has any affect on the film’s box office, we would expect it to be very small. Still, with only very little to go on at the moment, we are going with a very conservative projection of $850M.
6. Toy Story 4
Release Date: June 20
Comps: Toy Story 3 (2010): $1,066,969,703; Incredibles 2 (2018): $1,242,786,014
It’s been 9 years since we all cried during the end of Toy Story 3, and yes, we’re ready to be hurt again. There’s not much to say here, other than… Toy Story. It’s one of Pixar’s oldest, strongest, and most beloved properties. Its predecessor broke through the $1B mark back in 2010 and with a strong emotional connection to millennials, many of whom now have their own kids to share these characters and stories with – and also with 9 years of ticket inflation – we expect the fourth installment to easily beat that number from 2010. Ultimately we wouldn’t be surprised to see it surpass even The Incredibles 2 from last year. But again, without seeing much from this title, save for a short teaser trailer, we’ll stick with the reasonable estimate of $1.15B.
7. The Lion King
Release Date: July 19
Comps: Beauty and the Beast (2017): $1,263,521,126; The Jungle Book (2016): $966,550,600
The third, and most anticipated, Disney animated live-action remake is poised to dominate the summer months in 2019, with some believing that it could even challenge The Force Awakens’ (2015) domestic record of over $935M. Those are lofty expectations to put on young Simba, so we gave it a projection of just $1.55B. But with the star power that’s attached to this project – including Donald Glover (Simba), Beyonce (Nala), and James Earl Jones (Mufasa) – it would not be shocking for this film catch a summer heat wave and power its way closer to the $2B mark. Especially given that its only competition, Sony’s Spider-Man: Far From Home, comes out a full two weeks beforehand, on the first Friday of the month.
8. Artemis Fowl
Release Date: August 9
Comps: Maze Runner: The Death Cure (2018): $288,261,741
Artemis Fowl was the second film to stump us on this list. Audiences have recently shown that the era of Young Adult adaptations has come to an abrupt end, something we saw with the abandonment of the Divergent series mid-story and the bomb that was Mortal Engines in 2018. While Maze Runner: The Death Cure was able to pull in $288M globally in 2018, that number was far below its two predecessors which both made over $300M. Additionally, it was the third and final film of a trilogy with a known star attached. The question here is: is there an audience for this film? Right now we’re not sure, and that’s why we’re projecting Artemis Fowl to come in around $215M globally. As we get closer to its release we will see how much confidence Disney has in this movie by how heavily they push the marketing for it. It could surprise us and do Maze Runner numbers, but we’d more likely expect to see The Nutcracker and The Four Realms numbers.
9. Frozen 2
Release Date: November 27
Comps: Frozen (2013): $1,276,480,335
The highly anticipated sequel to the 2013 hit Frozen hits theaters in late-November, as Disney attempts to catch magic in a bottle for a second time. The first Frozen movie was such a juggernaut at the box office because of its soundtrack, led by the breakout hit that was stuck in our heads for the following three weeks, Let it Go – performed by Elsa’s voice actress Idina Menzel. Much of the film’s legs could be attributed to the multiple viewings and spectacular rewatchability factor that existed due to the fantastic soundtrack, something that may be difficult to emulate. For only that reason, we have again gone with a very conservative projection of $925M. But don’t be fooled, Frozen 2 could easily finish its run as another member of the billion-dollar club.
10. Star Wars Episode IX
Release Date: December 20
Comps: Star Wars: The Last Jedi (2017): $1,332,539,889
If there were ever a movie that was a sure-bet to hit $1B but that also has the studio extremely worried, it’s the final installment to the Skywalker saga: Star Wars Episode IX. After a… mixed reception to Rian Johnson’s The Last Jedi, which created a divide never before seen in such a huge franchise and the bona fide flop by Solo: A Star Wars Story soon after in May – something that was thought impossible for the franchise – Disney has to be feeling some trepidation with the release of Episode IX. There’s not much known about the film yet, other than Kathleen Kennedy bringing JJ Abrams back to direct and try to recreate some of his fan service magic that we saw in The Force Awakens. While we do believe that there will be a lot of fans that skip the final chapter out of spite, the pull of closure will ultimately draw most of us to the theaters – even if some of us do so out of hate. That said, if it doesn’t retcon, or explain, some of Johnson’s decisions from The Last Jedi, – or if it just doesn’t deliver in the way that fans want it to – then we may not see the kind of fan support and repeat viewings required to power past The Last Jedi. Without a trailer – or much information at all – it’s almost impossible to forecast. Regardless, we think it’s safe to assume that Episode IX will break $1.1B and probably get very close to $1.2B.
So, with these projections will Disney set the new global box office record in 2019? Yes.
There is no doubt in our minds that Disney will shatter their own record. If these conservative projections are close to the final numbers then Disney’s 2019 global accumulation will be north of $9.25B, beating the previous record by over $1.5B.
…And soon they’ll have 20th Century Fox.