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2018 Box Office Sets Domestic Annual Record With Over $11.38 Billion

Disney and superhero films topped the charts again, but a diverse slate is what allowed the box office to recover from a down 2017

With a week left in the year, the 2018 box office has set a new record for the highest annual total of all time, passing the $11.38-billion record set in 2016.

The record was set after a busy weekend in which five new movies were released wide in advance of Christmas Day, with Warner Bros.’ “Aquaman” topping the charts with a $67-million opening. These new films are expected to provide one last big boost to the box office starting on Christmas Day, possibly pushing the final annual total to $11.7-11.8 billion.

Just like in 2016, Disney was easily the top studio of the year with a domestic gross total of over $3 billion. This is the second time in the last three years Disney has grossed over $3 billion domestically and $7 billion worldwide, and no other studio has ever reached that mark. Depending on the final weekend, Disney will also finish the year with a domestic market share of 25-27 percent.

Though the studio had some misfires like “Solo,” which became the lowest-grossing film in “Star Wars” history, it released the three highest grossing films of the year with “Black Panther” ($700 million domestic), “Avengers: Infinity War” ($678.8 million) and “Incredibles 2” ($608.5 million).

Of course, those three films weren’t just Disney films. They were also all superhero films, a genre that accounted for six of the top 10 films this year. Along with the top three, other superhero films that reached the top 10 were Fox’s “Deadpool 2” in fifth ($318.4 million), Disney’s “Ant-Man and the Wasp” in eighth ($216.6 million) and Sony’s “Venom” in tenth ($213 million). The only non-superhero film in the top five was Universal’s “Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom” ($416.7 million). Combined, superhero films accounted for approximately 25 percent of all domestic box office revenue this year.

But while Disney and superheroes did much of the heavy lifting, other studios and genres provided important contributions to the year, driving ticket sales at times of the year that are usually seen as down periods. Several of those films placed just outside the top 10 on the annual charts, most notably Warner Bros.’ awards contender “A Star Is Born,” which has grossed $200 million domestically and served as an alternative to “Venom” for older audiences when it released in October, pushing the month’s total to an industry record of $821 million.

Other films that catered to specific demographics include the WB rom-com “Crazy Rich Asians,” which earned $174 million, and Fox’s Queen biopic “Bohemian Rhapsody,” which added $184 million to the domestic total. And the horror genre continued to have a presence year-round with films like Paramount’s “A Quiet Place” ($188 million) and Universal/Blumhouse’s “Halloween” ($157 million).

“The movie ecosystem can’t live on just the billion-dollar hit. We also need those films that post singles and doubles but also appeal to other interests,” IMAX Entertainment CEO Greg Foster told TheWrap at the end of the summer season. “Those films gave a long-lasting boost to movie theaters… even though none of them had an opening weekend of over $50 million.”

In all, the 2018 box office was a much different year than 2017, which suffered the worst summer season in 11 years and needed a strong final quarter to even finish above $11 billion. But this rebound was also an expected one, as movie theater and distribution execs voiced confidence heading into 2018 that the year’s slate would be more appealing to a wide range of moviegoers. The result is a year-over-year revenue increase of approximately seven percent.

“We knew last year that 2018 was going to be a much better year,” said Universal Domestic Distribution President Jim Orr. “We’ve been through down years in the past and I’ve always told people the same thing: it’s a cyclical business.”