Four studios grossed over $3 billion in 2019, but Universal milestone shows signs of progress in box office recovery
Universal Pictures announced on Sunday that it has become the first studio since the pandemic began to gross over $3 billion worldwide in a calendar year, thanks in large part to the mid-summer success of its franchise hits “Jurassic World: Dominion” and “Minions: The Rise of Gru.”
This year, Universal has released 11 films along with holiday holdover “Sing 2” and a 40th anniversary re-release of “E.T.: The Extra-Terrestrial.” So far, “Dominion” and “Rise of Gru” have combined for more than half of the studio’s global gross to date with $1.76 billion, as “Dominion” has grossed $976 million while “Rise of Gru” contributed $790 million.
Other successes for Universal this year include the DreamWorks animated film “The Bad Guys” ($246 million worldwide), as well as the horror films “Nope” ($113 million WW) and “The Black Phone” ($152 million WW). Upcoming films on Universal’s 2022 slate include the seasonal franchise horror film “Halloween Ends,” the potential Oscar contender “She Said,” and DreamWorks’ “Puss in Boots: The Last Wish.”
In 2019, $3 billion worldwide wasn’t a difficult bar to clear. Disney, Warner Bros., Universal and Sony Pictures all topped it during the last year before the pandemic, with Disney scoring a record-setting $11.1 billion thanks to hits like “Avengers: Endgame,” “The Lion King” and “Frozen II.” That doesn’t count the additional $2 billion from 20th Century Fox, which it acquired that year.
But Universal’s ability to hit that mark after a summer in which many blockbusters performed at or close to the level of their pre-pandemic counterparts shows how much progress the box office has made in getting back to normal compared to 2021. While China’s struggles with COVID-19 along with its film board’s more stringent release strategies for Hollywood films have hampered international totals, the domestic overall total for 2022 cross the $5 billion mark this weekend.
While that $5 billion total is 31% behind the $7.32 billion grossed up to this point in 2019, it is well ahead of the $1.8 billion grossed through mid-August in 2021, when only a precious few blockbusters were making any sort of serious cash in theaters.
Disney is also on track to easily cross $3 billion worldwide despite the poor performance of “Lightyear,” as the studio will end the year with the release of Disney Animation’s “Strange World,” Marvel’s “Black Panther: Wakanda Forever” and James Cameron’s “Avatar: The Way of Water.” Paramount will likely fall short of this mark given how few major films they have left to release this year, but the studio still has the top film of 2022 with “Top Gun: Maverick,” which has grossed $673 million domestic and $1.37 billion worldwide.