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Coming Attractions: Can Disney Possibly Top Its Record Year At The Box Office?

Coming Attractions: Can Disney Possibly Top Its Record Year At The Box Office?

When you're a movie company and you set the record for box office draw with some help from the all-time biggest money-making movie ever, what do you do for an encore? That's the dilemma facing Walt Disney Co. (NYSE: DIS) as it goes into 2020.

Incredible Year

Disney made $11.12 billion at the box office in 2019, according to Variety, including an incredible $2.8 billion alone from "Avengers Endgame," which became the highest grossing film of all time. The previous record worldwide box office take for one year was $7.6 billion, set by Disney in 2016. Disney is the only company to have ever topped $7 billion in a year.

It seems unlikely Disney will be able to match its incredible success in 2019, in which it was responsible for seven of the top 10 grossing films and had sequels in two major franchises, “Toy Story” and “Frozen” plus a Star Wars installment, “The Rise of Skywalker,” to close out the year.

It looks like it would take a surprisingly big success or two for Disney to match its 2019 ticket sales at the theater, with far fewer well-known franchises coming to the screen.

No Star Wars

First, Disney doesn't have a "Star Wars" film slated for 2020 release. The last time that happened was a long time ago in a galaxy that now seems far, far away. It's the first time since 2015 a new film from the franchise hasn't hit screens. Most of the big Disney years over the last decade have included major "Star Wars" installments.

Marvel Franchise — Less Blockbuster-ish

Disney will have the benefit of two Marvel franchise movies — though it doesn’t seem likely either will have the draw of “Endgame” — and neither has the wide appeal of the other two 2019 Marvel movies, “Captain Marvel” and “Spider-Man: Far From Home.”

One of the Marvel movies is “Black Widow,” in theaters May 1. The movie follows the former KGB assassin Natasha Romanoff character in a movie set between “Captain America: Civil War,” and “Avengers: Infinity War.”

The other is a big unknown in terms of how popular it will be, because it introduces a whole new group of superheroes into the Marvel universe. The movie is "The Eternals," which follows a new immortal alien race. While Disney has to hope fans will take to a new group of characters with this new franchise, the first version does bring some star power, with Angelina Jolie and Salma Hayek among others.


In addition to the Star Wars and Marvel features, the third leg of the Disney success tripod over the last decade has been the Pixar movies. Last year's "Toy Story 4" was a big part of the studio's 2019 success, as more than half of Disney's box office last year came from either Marvel or Pixar features.

Both Pixar films in 2020 are new stories, rather than sequels, which makes it hard to guess how they'll do, though Pixar originals in the past haven't done as well as sequels.

Pixar's "Soul" is out in June and features a Jamie Foxx-voiced teacher whose soul is separated from his body. Quest Love and Tina Fey are also in the movie.

Pixar's other movie this year will be "Onward," out in March. It looks like a classic lump-in-the-throat Disney family-seeking movie about two brothers — creatures who kind of look like trolls — who have to fix a magic spell gone wrong to be able to spend another day with their father, who has died.

Disney also will make another go at "live-actioning" a previously animated feature when it releases "Mulan." Making animated characters into real ones worked for Disney in 2019 with "Aladdin."

Other Disney movies this year will include:

  • Stephen Spielberg's adaptation of the classic Broadway musical "Westside Story."
  • A take on Jack London's "The Call of the Wild," starring Harrison Ford.
  • "Artemis Fowl," based on the book series by Eoin Colfer.
  • The King's Man," a prequel to "Kingsman: Secret Service."

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