Box Office Blues: 2019 Revenue Down Nearly 10 Percent Midyear

Men in Black International-Publicity Still 7-H 2019
Giles Keyte/Sony Pictures

The summer season so far has been rougher than expected, as proven franchises underperform and original hits are nearly extinct.

The roller coaster ride at the 2019 box office continues.

Analysts — who had been counting on another record year — were hopeful that the summer season would serve as a stabilizing force after a tough winter and spring, but no such luck.

Domestic revenue through June 30 is down an estimated 9.4 percent year over year, while ticket sales for the summer season are down 7.3 percent following a bad case of franchise fatigue infecting titles such as Godzilla: King of the Monsters, Men in Black: International and The Secret Life of Pets 2.

"I'm not giving up yet, and am trying to stay optimistic. But I thought we would catch up a lot quicker. For every two steps forward, we are going three steps back," says box office analyst Paul Dergarabedian of Comscore.

The international box office provides Hollywood with much of the bottom line. Year to date, titles released on more than 1,000 screens in North America have earned approximately $13.4 billion worldwide, a 5 percent dip from the previous year.

Of course, the big exception when discussing the downturn is the Disney empire. The studio, which now owns Fox, currently commands 40 percent of domestic market share. That unprecedented dominance could only grow in the coming weeks with the release of The Lion King (due out July 19) and the continued run of Toy Story 4.

Four of the top-grossing 2019 movies in North America belong to Disney, led by Avengers: Endgame ($841.3 million), Captain Marvel ($426.8 million), Aladdin ($305.9 million) and Toy Story 4 ($236.9 million). Globally, those titles have earned $2.761 billion, $1.128 billion, $874.2 million and $497.5 million to date, respectively.

In terms of domestic market share through June 28, Warner Bros. is No. 2 at 15.3 percent. Universal is No. 3 (15.29 percent), followed by Lionsgate (7 percent), Sony (5.8 percent) and Paramount (5.4 percent), according to Comscore.

"Disney has incredible IP. I don't worry about it, but I'm definitely paying attention. It doesn't mean we should all go home," says Jeff Goldstein, president of domestic distribution for Warner Bros. "We just have to be more clever and bold and have a strategy that stands out."

In 2018, domestic box office revenue clocked in at nearly $11.9 billion, an all-time best. Dergarabedian and other box office experts still believe that revenue for 2019 could approach the same level if titles such as Spider-Man: Far From Home (Sony), The Lion King (Disney), Quentin Tarantino's Once Upon a Time in Hollywood (Sony), Joker (Warner Bros.), Frozen 2 (Disney), Doctor Sleep (Warner Bros.), Cats (Universal) and Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker (Disney) pay off, among others.

Legendary and Warners' Godzilla: King of the Monsters has been one of the summer franchises that disappointed. To date, the movie has earned $106.5 million domestically, compared to $200.7 million for Godzilla (2004). The foreign box office has provided some solace, however. King of Monsters has earned $270 million overseas, versus $329 million for the 2004 film.

Likewise, Sony's Men in Black: International and Illumination/Universal's The Secret Life of Pets 2 stalled domestically. The latter has grossed $131.2 million to date, while the first Pets grossed an impressive $346.8 million. Men In Black: International has earned $65 million in its first three weekends, and won't come close to matching the first two films in the series.

"It’s all about making good movies. There have been franchises that have excelled this summer, such as Avengers and John Wick," says one studio executive. "Those that have fallen short have more to do with the movies themselves than having to do with them being a sequel."

Not even New Line's Annabelle Comes Home, the seventh outing in the Conjuring Universe, was entirely immune to franchise fatigue. It opened to $31.2 million over the weekend, the lowest of the Annabelle and Conjuring pics.

One bright spot: Working Title and Universal's adult dramedy Yesterday debuted to a better-than-expected $17 million. Serving as counter-programming to more commercial fare, the film is a win for original adult titles following the disappointing performances of Late Night, Booksmart and Long Shot.