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2019 Summer Box Office Was Bigger Than Last Year… If You Count ‘Avengers: Endgame’ Opening

Without the hit film’s launch one week before start of summer movie season, box office fell 2.8% year over year

Now that the 2019 summer movie season is officially over, was it able to outperform 2018 and become the biggest summer ever? The answer depends on how you include the biggest box office hit ever, “Avengers: Endgame.”

Since the release of “Spider-Man” in 2002, box office analysts have traditionally defined the summer season as beginning on the first Friday of May and ending on Labor Day. By that measurement, the 2019 domestic box office grossed $4.31 billion, a drop of 2.2% from the $4.41 billion made in the same time frame in 2018.

But the release slates for the past two summers haven’t adhered to industry standards. In an effort to avoid spoilers, Disney released “Avengers: Infinity War” and “Avengers: Endgame” on the last weekend of April in the U.S. to coincide with its overseas release. In the week before the summer season “officially” started, “Infinity War” earned $338 million to post the second highest opening week ever, while “Endgame” earned the biggest opening week of all time with a staggering $473 million grossed.

When these totals are included, the summer 2018 total rises to $4.82 billion, but summer 2019 sneaks just above it with $4.84 billion. That’s the second highest amount ever recorded in this time span, sitting only behind the $4.87 billion grossed in 2013.

The disparity in the numbers shows the impact “Avengers: Endgame” has had on the overall box office and the drop in box office performance by non-Disney studios compared to last year. Disney’s market share during the summer increased from 33% in 2018 to 42% in 2019, 47% if the entire domestic run of “Endgame” is counted.

Meanwhile, the combined gross of the top three non-Disney summer releases fell 24% compared to last year. The top three in summer 2018 — “Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom,” “Deadpool 2” and “Mission: Impossible – Fallout” — grossed a combined $940 million. The top three in 2019 — “Spider-Man: Far From Home,” “John Wick 3” and “The Secret Life of Pets” — grossed $714 million, with more than half of that coming from “Spider-Man” alone with $385 million.

Overall, the annual domestic box office to date stands at $7.8 billion, down 6.5% from last year. That deficit is mostly attributable to poor box office numbers in January and February, with February grosses hitting a six-year low.

Analysts are optimistic that the final four months of the year will help erase this deficit, thanks to a mix of Disney sequels like “Frozen II” and offerings from other studios like Warner Bros.’ “It: Chapter Two” and “Joker.” However, Disney is still expected to have the largest annual market share in industry history by year’s end, with its share currently standing at 37%.