Movies

2022 Domestic Box Office Postmortem: Disney Leads In A Year Of Continued Repair From Pandemic

The motion picture industry remains in a state of rehabilitation.

Just look at the majors’ domestic box office alone.

Back in 2019, four studios grossed over a billion apiece, with Disney-Fox reaping $4.28 billion alone. This year, only three studios grossed $1 billion or more.

And while we do get down to the nitty gritty, they all should be graded on a curve. Audiences, especially adults, aren’t back on a consistent basis. The August-to-mid-October period was absent any tentpoles due to the pandemic’s logjam of titles in post-production. Realize that 2022 was suppose to get such big movies as Spider-Man: Across the Spider-verse, Mission: Impossible: Dead Reckoning Part 1, The Flash and Aquaman: The Lost Kingdom, to name a few. All of those moved into 2023. If anything flopped, it was due to discerning audiences who chose between going to the cinema or streaming at home.

The calculations below are Deadline’s, off early Comscore data, and for the period of January 1-December 30. We’ll have more updates in the New Year as the studios make their numbers official. Overall, 2022 is expected to clear $7.4 billion, per Comscore, +72% over 2021.

Let’s get into it:

DISNEY

2022 domestic box office $1.93 billion (26% market share) across Disney, 20th Century Studios and Searchlight theatrical releases, +65% over 2021: 20th Century Studios and Searchlight did $600M for the year, Disney alone made $1.3 billion. Six No. 1 debuts in Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness ($187.4M), Thor: Love & Thunder ($144.1M), Black Panther: Wakanda Forever ($181.3M), Avatar: The Way of Water ($134.1M), Death on the Nile ($12.9M) and Barbarian ($10M).

Hocus Pocus 2

What they did: Disney continues to be envied around town, and still dominate because of Marvel. Even if audiences were hard on Doctor Strange 2 and Thor: Love and Thunder (B+ CinemaScores), Disney counts four Marvel movies (including Black Panther: Wakanda Forever and their co-share with Sony on the carryover of last year’s Spider-Man: No Way Home) in the top 10. 20th Century Studios, outside of Avatar 2, remains a stepchild brand split between sending some franchise films such as the Predator prequel Prey to Hulu and yielding such co-production bombs as New Regency’s Amsterdam. (In all fairness, Disney did what it could on the latter absurdist period comedy, moving the film up in an empty fall calendar and grabbing Imax screens.) The studio also sent potential moneymaking franchise movies straight to Disney+, i.e. Hocus Pocus 2 and Disenchanted, leaving some cash on the table. More importantly, it brought Bob Iger back, restoring creative executives’ confidence and shattering the Bob Chapek-created Media and Entertainment Distribution Division structure, putting “more decision-making back in the hands of our creative teams and rationalizes costs,” as Iger put it.

What they need to do: The studios needs to improve its animated theatrical releases in the wake of John Lasseter’s departure; read Lightyear was the lowest Toy Story movie ever ($118.3M), and Strange World ($36.3M) imploded. Animated pics are the staples of getting each generation to buy into Disney, from theme parks to merchandise. How does it continue to do that and not lose its moviegoing audience entirely to Disney+? While many in town already feel that Iger is course-correcting the conglom in the wake of Chapek’s day-and-date craze, the studio needs to officially let everyone know that it’s not sending lucrative franchise titles straight to streaming.

2023 outlook: Actions speak more than words. It appears the studio is attempting to turn the corner and keep its big live-action titles based on animated movies (The Little Mermaid, May 26), and theme park rides (i.e. Haunted Mansion, August 11) on the big screen. Expect more of the same gross-wise with three Marvel movies: Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania (February 17), Guardians of the Galaxy Vol 3 (May 5) and The Marvels (July 28). The studios doesn’t have a year-end Christmas release, but it has a huge July 4th event title in Lucasfilm’s Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny.

Universal Pictures

UNIVERSAL

2022 domestic box office $1.64 billion, +130% from 2021 (22% marketshare): Without Focus Features’ $110.5M, it’s $1.52 billion. Fives films opened to No. 1 including Jurassic World: Dominion ($145M), Minions: Rise of Gru ($107M), Nope ($44.3M), The Bad Guys ($23.95M) and Halloween Ends ($40M). In total Universal had a collective seven weekends atop the domestic box office (that includes pics’ subsequent weekends).

Jurassic World Dominion

What they did: They were the biggest supplier of product at 33 titles to exhibition. But not everything worked: Focus Features still awaits for upscale adults to come back as Downton Abbey: A New Era greatly underperformed ($43.8M). Adults opted to go to more fluffier fare like Universal’s Julia Roberts-George Clooney rom-com Ticket to Paradise ($68M). Jurassic World: Dominion‘s success was an easy full-court shot ($376M), and it can boast of having the highest-grossing animation title of the year of any major studio with Illumination’s Minions: The Rise of Gru ($369.5M). Blumhouse horror reigned, with The Black Phone grossing nearly $90M. Uni is fearless to take big swings with filmmakers such as Jordan Peele and his Nope, but with big bets come big misses i.e. Ambulance, The 355, Bros, She Said, etc. 

What they need to do: NBCUniversal CEO Jeff Shell is one of the few entertainment conglom leaders who’s still betting on streaming while other studios see it as an ancillary market. Is that financially prudent? Others are scaling back on that distribution strategy. Uni continued to practice theatrical day-and-date despite rival studios abandoning it. Uni’s theatrical-Peacock pay-tier lineup included Jennifer Lopez’s Marry Me, along with Firestarter, Honk for Jesus. Save Your Soul and Halloween Ends. While the latter provided $64M to exhibitors, grosses clearly were crimped overall by the collapsing of windows. In all fairness, Uni made more money than Paramount at the box office with its theatrical day and date titles combined, not to mention exhibition also benefitted with $98.4M. This versus the Melrose lot’s limited releases of Paramount+ titles Confess, Fletch; On The Come Up, and Orphan: First Kill which only made $6.1M. Word is that Uni will continue day-and-date on smaller titles. Universal is greatly in need of brand IP as Fast and Furious and Jurassic World get older.

2023 outlook: Uni potentially could blast 2023 off with a nice Blumhouse hit in the AI doll title Megan, which has a shot at a $20M opening on January 6. There’s more genre on February 6 with M. Night Shyamalan’s Knock at the Cabin. Then there’s an old-school staple in Fast X on May 19 and Focus Features’ Wes Anderson title Asteroid City on June 16. Animation is big in the New Year with Super Mario Bros. eyed as a whole new Illumination franchise over Easter weekend, propped by a new Hollywood theme park as well as DreamWorks Animation’s Trolls 3 on November 17 and Illumination’s Migration on December 22. 

Paramount

PARAMOUNT

2022 domestic box office $1.29 billion, +364% over 2021 (17% marketshare): The last time the studio crossed $1 billion was 2014. But Paramount had its best year in more than a decade with $2.6 billion-plus worldwide and the highest-grossing movie of the year and Tom Cruise’s best ever in Top Gun: Maverick‘s $1.48 billion. That title was responsible for bringing many adults back to cinemas for the first time during the pandemic. 

Top Gun: Maverick

What they did: For a studio that was buzzed to turn more toward streaming with Paramount+ following the exit of former Paramount studio boss Jim Gianopulos, the studio stuck to its theatrical guns and bathed in a rainfall of cash. It had six No. 1 openings across several different genres, showing that there was an audience appetite for each, especially women with The Lost City ($30.5M opening, $105.3M domestic), families with Sonic the Hedgehog 2 ($72.1M opening, $190.8M), 18-34 with horror titles like Scream ($30M opening, $81.6M stateside) back in January, vintage MTV brands in Jackass Forever ($23.1M, $57.7M), Top Gun: Maverick ($126.7M 3-day, $718.7M) and Smile ($22.6M, $105.9M). While CEO and President Brian Robbins didn’t initially develop this slate, unlike other newly installed studio heads, he he did keep the current razor-sharp movie regime of global marketing and distribution boss Marc Weinstock, domestic distribution chief Chris Aronson, and Motion Picture Group co-heads Mike Ireland and Daria Cerceck in place. Robbins gets credit for pulling Smile out of Paramount+ after it tested well, enabling it to become one of the early fall’s few tentpoles. 

What they need to do: Similar to Universal, Paramount has to mine new franchises (it’s bound to have one in Dungeons and Dragons: Honor Among Thieves on March 31.) Will it be another 20 years before we see Top Gun 3? What’s going on with Star Trek? After appealing to a variety of demos off of 14 theatrical releases this year, it should continue to bet on theatrical. There’s nine more titles for 2023, the Melrose lot having theatrical on Apple TV+’s Martin Scorsese movie Flowers of the Killer Moon

2023 outlook: Scream 6 is part of next year’s initial rebound on March 10. There’s another reboot in Transformers: Rise of the Beasts on June 9, another Cruise vehicle in Mission: Impossible – Dead Reckoning Part 1, a hopeful new animation reboot in Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Mutant Mayhem on August 4, to name a few. Will all of this emulate another $1 billion-plus year for the Melrose lot?

Warner Bros.

WARNER BROS.

2022 domestic box office $935.9M, +41% from 2021 (13% marketshare): Six No. 1 openings in The Batman ($134M), Fantastic Beasts: Secrets of Dumbledore ($42.1M), Elvis ($31.2M), DC League of Super-Pets ($23M), Don’t Worry Darling ($19.3M) and Black Adam ($67M).

The Batman

What they did: Returned to theatrical after former WarnerMedia CEO Jason Kilar’s grand HBO Max theatrical day-and-date faulty experiment and excelled. The Batman was WB’s first big tentpole of the year post-experiment, making $369.3M. Adults came back with Elvis, the highest-grossing original title of the year with $151M. Say what you will about Black Adam, but it was Dwayne Johnson’s biggest live-action opening as a solo star, and it provided a lot of bucks to the fall box office before Black Panther: Wakanda Forever arrived.   

Wonder Woman 1984

What they need to do: Continue to bet on original movies like Elvis and Don’t Worry Darling and provide great creative reign to Mike de Luca and Pam Abdy as chairpeople of Warner Bros Entertainment — the studio having the second-best IP in town. How des ir go forward and exploit other franchises like Bugs Bunny? The studio needs a new head of animation, stat. Warner Discovery CEO David Zaslav needs to realize you can’t cut your way to profitability and sometimes you have to make bold moves. In the wake of Batgirl‘s cancellation, Henry Cavill’s dismissal from Man of Steel and the upset from Patty Jenkins and Wonder Woman 3, the rebuilding of talent relations and the town’s faith in that is key for the studio. Remember the legacy of those who came before you: Former TimeWarner CEO Steve Ross and Warner Bros co-chair and co-CEO Terry Semel and Bob Daly believed in spending money on talent and supporting them through long-term relationships. If something failed, they didn’t walk away from them. They were selective about it. Figure out (I’m sure we’ll know sooner than later) the connection between the rest of the DC Snyderverse, Reeves’ next Batman, and Todd Phillips’ ‘ next Joker with James Gunn and Peter Safran’s new DCverse. The rumored shoots of Cavill, Gadot for The Flash endings has many wondering. 

2023 outlook: The balance of former DC chief Walter Hamada’s titles in Shazam: Fury of the Gods (March 17), The Flash (June 16), Blue Beetle (August 18) and Aquaman: The Lost Kingdom (December 25). More tentpoles in Barbie (July 21), The Meg 2 (August 4), The Nun 2 (September 8), Dune 2 (November 3), Wonka (December 15), The Color Purple (December 20). Feels easily like a billion-plus year stateside.

SONY

2022 domestic box office $843.8M, -20% from 2021 (11% marketshare); around $850.8M with Sony Pictures Classics: Four No. 1 openings in Uncharted ($44M), Bullet Train ($30M), The Woman King ($19M) and The Invitation ($6.8M).

What they did: The studio had great carryover business at the onset of 2022 with $231.8M of Spider-Man: No Way Home‘s lifetime U.S./Canada gross of $814.1M. Then came a smart release strategy by following up with Spidey star Tom Holland’s next movie, Uncharted, based on the PlayStation game ($148.6M). Brad Pitt’s Bullet Train slept its way to $103M-plus, and 3000 Pictures had adult appeal with Where the Crawdads Sing ($90M) and fall awards-season bait The Woman King ($67.1M). Sony makes extra bread in service deals on such pics like Black Label’s Devotion and I Wanna Dance with Somebody. Sony spread its risk around with co-financiers, so it can shoot for the moon. As the only major motion picture studio without a streaming service (sources believe Sony Pictures Entertainment Chairperson Tony Vinciquerra gets credit for not wasting money on building one out and splitting away dollars on content to compete with rivals), it remains a content arms dealer with third parties.

What they need to do: Make sure the rest of its own Marvel Venom-verse works with pics like Kraven the Hunter on October 6, get another Jumanji sequel underway and continue to roll the dice on intriguing, original adult fare like The Woman King. Outside of Spider-verse, get Sony Animation back on track after the Hotel Transylvania and Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs franchises.

‘Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse’

2023 outlook: Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse Part 1 will definitely deliver on June 2, there’s hope for a new franchise in PlayStation game inspiration Gran Turismo from Neill Blomkamp (August 11). Can the Ghostbusters sequel keep its December 20 date after a changeup in directors? Lots of original adult fare in Adam Driver’s sci-fi title 65 (March 17), the George Foreman biopic (April 28) and Priyanka Chopra-Celine Dion romantic comedy Love Again (May 12).

OTHERS

A24 at $118.8M built on the back of its biggest-grossing movie ever, Everything Everywhere All at Once ($70M); may it continue to dynamite the 18-34 sector to arthouses in the New Year and beyond. The long-awaited Ari Aster film Beau Is Afraid starring Joaquin Phoenix arrives Q4 next year. The newly Amazon-acquired MGM/United Artists Releasing did $102.3M, -68% from last year’s 007-fueled $323.1M. Of that, $61.8M came from Channing Tatum’s Dog. They need a new head of film under Jennifer Salke as they plot to reawaken theatrical. There’s definite blockbuster potential for Creed III on March 3. Despite being off 22% in 2022 with $80.3M, if Lionsgate spends on marketing, its should have hits in John Wick: Chapter 4, The Hunger Games: The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes and About My Father. Our sources say the much-rumored up-for-sale-studio won’t got scooped up during a recession (MMAs aren’t apt to occur during such times), nor ahead of the Hunger Games prequel.

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