“A billion,” as in dollars, is a phrase being spoken and heard more frequently than ever in Hollywood this year, with the domestic and global box office exploding and 2015 on pace to be the biggest in history.
Walt Disney Studios crossed the $1 billion mark in domestic grosses in 174 days on Thursday, the fastest it has ever done so, powered by the Marvel superhero sequel “Avengers: Age of Ultron,” the live-action fairy tale “Cinderella” and Pixar Animation’s “Inside Out.”
Warner Bros., paced by “Mad Max: Fury Road” and “San Andreas,” should top the milestone this weekend, which will be a speed record, too. And it won’t be long until 20th Century Fox will soon do the same, behind “Kingsman: The Secret Service,” DreamWorks Animation’s “Home” and Spy.”
Red-hot Universal Studios sped past $1 billion and shattered the domestic box office mark in record time three weeks ago, on the same weekend that “Jurassic World” broke the record for the biggest U.S. box office opening ever.
Earlier this week, the dinosaur sequel passed the $1 billion mark at the global box office in just 13 days, breaking the record set by the Universal’s “Furious 7,” which had crossed the milestone in 17 days back in April.
“Avengers: Age of Ultron” hit $1 billion at the worldwide box office in May for Disney. Universal’s “Minions” and Paramount’s “Mission: Impossible 5 – Rogue Nation” could do the same in July, as could Sony’s next James Bond film “Spectre” and Lionsgate’s “Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 2”in November. Disney’s “Star Wars: The Force Awakens” arrives on Dec. 18 and is likely to hit $2 billion, many analysts believe.
You probably see a trend here. The overall domestic box office, which last weekend was up over the comparable frame last year by roughly 70 percent, is hitting on all cylinders. Both the summer and the year are on a record pace, and if most of the year’s remaining big-ticket releases deliver as expected, the North American box office will top $11 billion for the first time ever.
“The big-budget movie business is going great guns, and if you like reboots, superheroes and sequels, this is your golden age,” said Jeff Bock, senior analyst at Exhibitor Relations.
It’s not that billions are a new concept for the film biz. The domestic box office has topped $10 billion annually since 2009. And with China growing by leaps and bounds, the global box office topped $36 billion last year. It’s more that after a down 2014, the box office is booming and building billions so fast that the big numbers might begin to blur.
“It would seem that reports of the death of the American movie industry are exaggerated,” Bock said.