While there are still a few more days before 2016 comes to an end, the studio set to take the annual box-office crown has been decided – and its margin is only going to get bigger.
Burbank’s Walt Disney Co. has already earned this year’s title with a U.S. haul of more than $2.5 billion as of Dec. 14, and that’s before “Rogue One: A Star Wars Story” soared into theaters last weekend. Warner Bros. Entertainment Inc. has the No. 2 spot ($1.54 billion), followed by NBCUniversal and Twentieth Century Fox Film Corp. (tied at $1.44 billion), and Sony Entertainment Inc. ($886 million), according to Box Office Mojo. Viacom’s struggling Paramount Pictures unit was on track to come in seventh, just breaking the $800 million box-office mark.
The final order could change depending on the performances of Universal’s “Sing,” produced by the studio’s Santa Monica subsidiary Illumination Entertainment, Fox’s “Assassin’s Creed,” and Sony’s “Passengers.”
U.S. box-office revenue has totaled $10.4 billion as of Dec. 12 – a 3.6 percent increase compared with the same time last year, according to Bloomberg Intelligence.
Globally, Disney accounted for the four highest-grossing films of 2016 to date: Marvel’s “Captain America: Civil War” ($1.2 billion), Pixar’s “Finding Dory” ($1.03 billion), “Zootopia” ($1.02 billion), and “The Jungle Book” ($966 million).
“In (fiscal) 2016, (Disney’s studio division) benefited from a strong film slate with theatrical revenues up 58 percent year to year,” Alexia Quadrani, a managing director at New York’s J.P. Morgan Chase & Co., wrote in a Nov. 29 report.
While there is some doubt as to whether “Rogue One,” the first standalone film in the sci-fi franchise, can match the nearly $2.1 billion generated around the world by last year’s “Star Wars: The Force Awakens,” it was projected to break the $300 million mark in opening-weekend global box office. As a result, there seems little doubt that the studio will best last year’s record-setting global box-office total of $6.89 billion, set by NBCUniversal. Disney’s global 2016 box-office tally sat north of $6.5 billion as of Dec. 14.
Looking ahead, 2017 could prove to be another positive one for the studio – because Disney’s fiscal year begins in October, receipts for “Rogue One” will actually count toward its 2017 corporate bottom line. Other highlights from Disney’s upcoming slate include a live-action “Beauty and the Beast” and the latest installments in its lucrative franchises: “Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2,” “Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales,” and “Cars 3.”
“Disney is poised to extend its box-office dominance into 2017,” Geetha Ranganathan, a Bloomberg Intelligence media analyst in New York, wrote in an email.
However, because Disney only plans to distribute eight films during fiscal 2017 compared with the 10 put out by the studio in fiscal 2016, some are unsure as to whether the company can scale the same heights.
“We believe that (fiscal) 2017 will face a difficult comparison against the impressive (fiscal) 2016 performance,” wrote Quadrani.
Looking even further ahead, fiscal 2018 is widely expected to be a banner year for the studio thanks in large part to its “Star Wars” scheduling. Because its “Han Solo” Star Wars spinoff, from its Lucasfilm unit, is expected to hit theaters in May 2018, Disney will be able to tally that film’s haul in addition to the expected huge total for “Star Wars: Episode VIII,” which is due out in December 2017.
“We fully expect to return to more robust growth in fiscal 2018 and beyond, particularly given the powerful upcoming slates in our studio,” Disney Chief Executive Bob Iger said in a Nov. 10 earnings call. “In fiscal 2018 alone, we have four new Marvel movies, three animated films from Pixar and Disney Animation, and two ‘Star Wars’ releases.”
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