2019 Global Box Office Revenue Hit Record $42.5B Despite 4 Percent Dip in U.S.

Avengers: Endgame Frozen 2 Joker_Split - Publicity - H 2020
Courtesy of Marvel, Disney and Warner Bros.

The growth spurt was fueled by international ticket sales, which clocked in at an all-time high of $31.1 billion.

That's a wrap.

Global box office revenue hit a record $42.5 billion in 2019, despite a mixed performance in North America, where combined ticket sales came in at $11.4 billion, a 4 percent decline from 2018's historic $11.88 billion, according to Comscore. That was the sharpest domestic decline in five years as a number of franchise installments faltered.

The growth spurt overall was fueled by an uptick at the foreign box office, where revenue came in at $31.1 billion. It's the first time revenue has crossed the $30 billion threshold. International was up an estimated 4 percent, while worldwide revenue saw an uptick of around 2 percent from 2018's $41.7 billion. Foreign markets seeing gains included China, Japan, South Korea, France, Germany, Russia, Mexico, Spain, Brazil and Italy, among others.

While moviegoing in North America couldn't match 2018's record haul, 2019's revenue of $11.4 billion still represented the second-best showing of all time, narrowly besting the $11.38 billion collected in 2016.

"Given the level of competition from a plethora of options across multiple platforms on an incalculable number of devices, it should be actually heartening to the industry that 2019 delivered the second-best annual box office revenue in history," says Paul Dergarabedian of Comscore. "But clearly movies have to seem fresh and original to draw today's audiences, who have a massive level of choice for their entertainment diet."

Added National Association of Theatre Owners chief John Fithian in celebrating the second-best year ever domestically: “Through every challenge, through every new technology innovation over the last 20 years, theatrical admissions have been stable and box office has consistently grown."

The tentpoles that worked did so in grand fashion. A record-shattering nine films joined, or are days away from joining, the billion-dollar club. That includes Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker, whose global tally was $952.1 million through Thursday.

Mega-grossers were hardly the only winners. While the upper reaches of the 2019 chart were dominated by franchise installments, original films such as Once Upon a Time in Hollywood, Us and Knives Out prospered.

Heading into 2019, most box office analysts predicted another record year. But a virulent case of sequelitis infected a number of event pics, resulting in a topsy-turvy ride that saw revenue dip by as much as 9 to 11 percent at certain points on the calendar. In early December, revenue was still down by 6 percent, but the year-end slate of holiday films succeeded in narrowing the deficit.

Disney was far and away the biggest winner among the major Hollywood studios. The company's unprecedented global haul was $11.1 billion, representing more than 26 percent of worldwide market share. In North America, it commanded more than 33 percent of market share. And that doesn't include titles from 20th Century Fox, now part of the Disney empire. Factoring in Fox titles, Disney's share of revenue was more than $13 billion, although that includes revenue from some Fox films released pre-merger.

Disney's own all-star team included Avengers: Endgame, which supplanted Avatar to become the top-grossing film of all time with $2.79 billion in worldwide ticket sales.

The studio's other billion-dollar babies included The Lion King ($1.66 billion), Frozen 2 ($1.33 billion), Captain Marvel ($1.12 billion), Toy Story 4 ($1.07 billion) and Aladdin ($1.05 billion), while the Disney-owned Marvel Studios produced Sony's Spider-Man: Far From Home ($1.13 billion). Warner Bros.' R-rated edgy superhero pic Joker ($1.06 billion) was the other major studio effort to cross $1 billion.

Adds Dergarabedian, “The immersive bigger-than-life movie theater experience remains a singular, essential and relevant part of the entertainment diet of consumers around the world."