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 alone with Fox reaping $4.28 billion. This year only three studios grossed in excess of a billion.

And while we do get down to the nitty gritty, they should all be graded on a curve. Audiences, especially adults, aren’t back on a consistent basis. The August to mid-October period was absent of any tentpoles due to the pandemic’s logjam of titles in post-production. Realize 2022 was suppose to get big movies like 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 watching streaming at home.

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The below calculations are Deadline’s and off early Comscore data and for the period of Jan. 1-Dec. 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).

What They Did: They continue 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 they could on the 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, they 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: They need to improve their animated theatrical releases in the wake of John Lasseter’s departure from the studio, 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 do they continue to do that and not lose their moviegoing audience entirely to Disney+? While many in town already feel that Iger is course-correcting the conglom post Chapek’s day-and-date craze, the studio needs to officially let everyone know that they’re not sending lucrative franchise titles straight to Disney+.

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

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), Bad Guys ($23.95M) and Halloween Ends ($40M). In total Universal had a collective of seven weekends atop the domestic box office (that includes pics’ subsequent weekends).

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, such as Universal’s Julia Roberts-George Clooney romcom Ticket to Paradise ($68M). Jurassic World: Dominion‘s success was an easy full court shot ($376M), and they can boast that they had the highest grossing animation title of the year of any major studio with Illumination’s Minions: Rise of Gru ($369.5M).  Blumhouse horror reigned with The Black Phone grossing a near $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 their spending. Uni continued to practice theatrical day-and-date despite rival studios abandoning it. That line-up included Jennifer Lopez’s Marry Me, Firestarter, Honk for Jesus. Save Your Soul and Halloween Ends. While the latter provided $64M to exhibitors, grosses were clearly crimped overall by the collapsing of windows. 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. One film finance source opines, “They’re overpaying to get top product: It’s one thing to bet on Tom Cruise in space, it’s another thing with Christopher Nolan’s Oppenheimer. They better get lucky.” 

2023 Outlook: Uni could potentially blast 2023 off with a nice Blumhouse hit in the AI doll title M3GAN which has a shot at a $20M opening on Jan. 6. There’s more genre on Feb. 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 Nov. 17 and Illumination’s Migration on Dec. 22. 

Paramount

2022 Domestic Box Office: $1.29 billion, +364% over 2021 (17% marketshare). The last time they crossed $1 billion was 2014. The studio had its best year in more than a decade with over $2.6 billion 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. 

What They Did: For a studio that was buzzed to turn more toward streaming in Paramount+ following the exit of former Paramount Studio Boss Jim Gianopulos, the studio kept to its theatrical guns and bathed in a rainfall of cash. They 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 & 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 Marketing Boss Marc Weinstock, 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 and enabling it to become one of the early fall’s few tentpoles. 

What They Need to Do: Similar to Universal, they have to mine new franchises (they’re bound to have one in Dungeons and Dragons 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, they should continue to bet on theatrical. There’s nine more titles for 2023, the Melrose lot having theatrical on AppleTV+’s Martin Scorsese movie Flowers of the Killer Moon

2023 OutlookScream 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 Aug. 4 to name a few. Will all of this emulate another $1 billion-plus year for the Melrose lot?

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).

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 their 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 Wakanda Forever arrived.   

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 do they go forward and exploit other franchises like Bugs Bunny? They need 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 somethign 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 (Aug 18) and Aquaman: The Lost Kingdom (Dec 25). More tentpoles in Barbie (July 21), The Meg 2 (Aug 4), The Nun 2 (Sept 8), Dune 2 (Nov 3), Wonka (Dec 15), The Color Purple (Dec 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: They had great carryover business at the onset of 2022 with $231.8M of Spider-Man: No Way Home‘s lifetime US/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 Tri-Star 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. They spread their risk around with co-financiers so they 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 spitting away dollars on content to compete with rivals), they remain an content arms dealer with third parties.

What They Need To Do: Make sure the rest of their own Marvel Venom-verse works with pics like Kraven the Hunter on Oct. 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 post Hotel Transylvania and Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs franchises.

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 (Aug. 11). Can the Ghostbusters sequel keep its Dec. 20 date after a change-up 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).

MISC: A24 at $118.8M built on the back of their biggest grossing movie ever, Everything Everywhere All at Once ($70M); may they 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 a definite blockbuster in Creed III on March 3. Despite being off 22% in 2022 with $80.3M, if Lionsgate spends on marketing, they should have hits in John Wick: Chapter 4, 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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