Box Office: Winter 2019 Revenue Hits 8-Year Low in U.S.

Twentieth Century Fox/Photofest; Courtesy of Warner Bros. Pictures; Universal Pictures/Photofest
From left: 'Alita: Battle Angel,' 'Isn't It Romantic,' 'Happy Death Day 2U'

Combined ticket sales were down sharply even before the worst Presidents Day weekend in 15 years.

Captain Marvel can't arrive in theaters soon enough.

That's the refrain across Hollywood — and on Wall Street — as industry observers grapple with a downturn at the North American box office following a record-shattering 2018. Revenue for the first seven weeks of 2019 has hit an eight-year low, capped by what looks to be the worst Presidents Day weekend in 15 years.

January was down more than 15 percent from the prior year sans a breakout hit or a carryover holiday hit such as Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle and The Greatest Showman last year, or a Star Wars pic the three previous years. Revenue for the month came in at roughly $812 million, the lowest since 2011.

"This lack has left the industry stuck in neutral as we await the arrival of Captain Marvel, which will begin a much-needed and inevitable revival at the multiplex," says Paul Dergarabedian of Comscore.

So far, February hasn't brought much relief. Revenue for the month is also at its lowest level since 2011, according to Comscore.

Comparisons with February 2018 were always going to be particularly brutal because of Black Panther, which debuted to a record-shattering $242 million over Presidents Day weekend last year.

This year, the top-grossing pic of the long Presidents Day frame is the James Cameron-written and -produced Alita: Battle Angel with an estimated five-day opening of $41 million to $42 million (a final number will be released Tuesday morning).

While Alita came in well ahead of prerelease tracking, its domestic launch is subdued given its $170 million net budget. Among other holiday offerings, the Rebel Wilson comedy Isn't It Romantic bowed to an estimated $23.6 million, followed by Happy Death Day 2U with a muted $15 million.

Happy Death Day 2U, from Blumhouse and Universal, is among several 2019 sequels that are doing notably less business than their predecessors. The first Happy Death Day, for example, debuted to $26 million in 2017.

The Lego Movie 2: The Second Chapter started off with $34 million over the Feb. 8-10 weekend, less than half the first film's debut. Lego 2's estimated domestic total through Monday is $66 million, compared with $130 million for 2014's The Lego Movie by the end of its second outing.

The top-grossing release of the year to date is M. Night Shyamalan's Glass, which has earned an estimated $105 million thus far, trailing the $138 million grossed by Shyamalan's Split in 2016.

Through Sunday, domestic box office revenue for the year stood at $1.2 billion, down nearly 20 percent from the same period in 2018.

Next week's threequel How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World hopes to beat the sequel curse that has infected the 2019 box office so far, but most box office observers are more focused on Captain Marvel, the female-fronted superhero pic set to hit theaters March 8.

Tracking suggests Captain Marvel, starring Brie Larson, will open to $120 million or more domestically. It's the first in a string of Disney tentpoles this year, to be followed by Dumbo, Avengers: Endgame, The Lion King, Toy Story 4, Frozen 2 and Star Wars: Episode IX.

Analysts remain confident that Disney's slate, combined with event films from rival studios, including The Secret Life of Pets 2, Spider-Man: Far From Home, Hobbs & Shaw, It: Chapter 2, Joker and an untitled Jumanji sequel, will deliver a record year in 2019, despite Hollywood's winter of discontent. There could also be an unprecedented number of titles soaring past $1 billion at the global box office.