It’s superheroes and scares to the rescue at the 2019 box office.
Over the weekend, New Line and DC’s genre-bending, kid-friendly Shazam! debuted to a better-than-expected $53.5 million domestically and $155.5 million globally, while Paramount’s Pet Sematary remake of the Stephen King tale took in a strong $25 million in North America and $42.5 million worldwide.
That’s not all. Universal and Jordan Peele’s horror hit Us placed No. 4 in its third weekend with a domestic haul of $13.8 million, while Marvel and Disney’s Captain Marvel rounded out the top five with $12.7 million all the way in its fifth frame.
Collectively, the four films generated $105 million in domestic ticket sales — more than 71 percent of all weekend revenue ($146.9 million).
“It speaks volumes about the insatiable appetite that moviegoers have for superhero and horror films — two genres that can motivate people off the couch and away from streaming quite effectively and consistently,” says Paul Dergarabedian of ComScore.
Superhero and horror titles claim four of the top five slots on the list of top domestic earners in 2019: Captain Marvel ($374.1 million), Us ($152.4 million), carryover pic Aquaman ($136 million) and Glass ($111 million). The only exception in the top five is Universal and DreamWorks Animation’s animated family title How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World ($156.7 million).
Globally, Captain Marvel is by far the year’s top earner, with $1.04 billion in ticket sales through Sunday.
Us, Peele’s follow-up to Get Out, has earned an impressive $216.6 million worldwide against a $20 million production budget, and even has an edge on Disney’s Dumbo, which has earned $213.6 million through Sunday (Us has been in theaters for three weekends, versus two for Dumbo).
Horror hits in 2018 included A Quiet Place, The Nun and The First Purge.
“Nothing beats the communal experience of terror in theaters. On top of that, it’s the only genre where Hollywood really has a stranglehold on budgetary constraints. Horror is bringing in huge dividends, and it helps that the genre isn’t star-driven, making it easier to take chances and greenlight films,” says box-office analyst Jeff Bock of Exhibitor Relations.
Superhero pics, which cost far more to make than horror titles, made a spectacular showing last year between Avengers: Infinity War, Black Panther, Deadpool 2, Venom, Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse, Ant-Man and the Wasp and Aquaman.
Shazam!, with its youthful and comedic themes, prospered in appealing to younger moviegoers. More than half of the audience was under the age of 25, including nearly a third under age 17, according to PostTrak. As a way of comparison, 46 percent of those turning out to see Captain Marvel on opening weekend were under 25.
While it didn’t break any records in its opening, Shazam!‘s overall performance no doubt launches a new franchise for New Line and DC. The film cost notably less than many of its rivals, or $100 million to produce before marketing.
“Superhero films are the de facto family films of the modern era. Plain and simple. Everything’s bigger and bolder on the big screens with regards to the genre. Seeing the action pieces and feeling the rumble are worth the price of admissions for audiences,” says Bock.
“Both these genres tap into a feeling that Netflix can’t offer — the thrill of sitting on the edge of your seat in a packed house of strangers, gasping and oohing and aahing,” says Bock. “That’s a big part of the fun these genres bring.”