Hakuna matata, indeed. The Lion King has proven itself an exceedingly mighty king at the global box office, bounding past the $1 billion mark after less than three weeks in theaters.
The photorealistic remake, directed by Jon Favreau, was expected to open massively for Disney from the moment the studio greenlit it three years ago while riding the success of The Jungle Book, also directed by Favreau.
But once other studios moved out of Disney’s path to avoid getting steamrolled by The Lion King, its box-office domination was written in the stars. It’s the fourth Disney title to pass $1 billion at the global office so far this year and further evidence the studio has essentially cornered the market on blockbusters.
With Avengers: Endgame, Captain Marvel, and Aladdin already members of the studio’s billion-dollar club this year—and Frozen 2 and Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker all but guaranteed entry later this year—Disney has mounted into a box-office behemoth practically unprecedented in the history of cinema. With its acquisition of Fox earlier this year accounted for, the studio controls more than 40% of the domestic market share, as per Variety. It also passed a landmark last weekend, setting an all-time record for global ticket sales in a given year with $7.67 billion worldwide. To do so, it passed its own 2016 record of $7.61 billion, and did so notably, in July, with five months left to go before the record books close on 2019.
Aside from Frozen 2 and Star Wars, both hotly anticipated sequels to massive billion-dollar blockbusters, Disney also has a Maleficent sequel in the wings. That title, subtitled Mistress of Evil, feels like a bit more of a question mark despite the return of star Angelina Jolie, opening a full five years after the original, which grossed more than $758 million worldwide. If the sequel finds similar success in its October bow, it could be seen as proof Disney has cemented the kind of long-sought reputation that can sell tickets based on studio-brand name alone.
The question for Hollywood becomes whether any studio stands a chance of matching Disney at the box office. This year, at least as of this writing, almost certainly belongs to the House of Mouse. Only Universal’s Hobbs & Shaw and (much more questionably) Cats, Warner Bros.’ It: Chapter 2, and (more dubiously) Doctor Sleep, and Sony’s Jumanji: The Next Level seem like possibilities to pass $1 billion, and all of those titles would have to overperform considerably past analyst predictions in order to surpass such a lofty mark.
Spinoffs have been underperforming across the board this year, with Men In Black: International considered a particular misfire, racking up only $247 million globally (seven years ago, its predecessor more than doubled that gross). But some expect Hobbs & Shaw to deliver for Universal. The Fast & Furious films have become major performers overseas, and with the star wattage of Dwayne Johnson and Jason Statham in tow, it could rev past fairly low expectations of a $60 million bow on its way to being the third F&F entry (after predecessors Furious 7 and The Fate of the Furious) to break $1 billion. Universal’s other hopeful, Cats, saw its box office fortunes fade quickly after an ill-received first trailer earlier this month; Tom Hooper’s last movie musical, Les Misérables, grossed over $441 million globally for Universal in 2012, and Cats is expected to at best match that.
Horror’s hot at the box office, but both of Warner Bros.’ two Stephen King adaptations carry R-ratings and require knowledge of a pre-existing property (2017’s It for the former, and Stanley Kubrick’s 1980 classic The Shining for the latter). It made over $700 million worldwide, breaking numerous records in the process; analyst hopes are high for the Andy Muschietti-directed sequel, but whether it can add an extra $300 million on top of matching its predecessor’s haul remains to be seen.
Sony, already a billion-dollar studio this year thanks to Spider-Man: Far From Home (and thus thanks to Disney, whose Marvel Cinematic Universe launched the superhero pic), may stand the best chance of any studio with its Jumanji sequel. The original made an astounding $962 million worldwide, just shy of that billion-dollar mark, and was well-received by critics and audiences alike; this sequel’s aiming, as the first film did, for the Christmas holiday frame.
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