Chris Pratt and Charlie Day voice Mario and Luigi in Universal Pictures and Illumination’s Super Mario Bros. Movie.

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LOS ANGELES — Here’s the billion-dollar question: Why is this year’s blockbuster in short supply?

generic “Super Mario Bros. The Movie” is the only 2023 movie to cross the $1 billion mark at the global box office. Even with some big titles on the calendar, it doesn’t look like there will be another one.

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“If you gave 10 people a release schedule at the beginning of the year and said, ‘We’re going to make a billion-dollar movie out of all these movies, can you choose which one?’ That’s what the Mario Bros. Movie is about,” said Mike Polydoros, chief executive of PaperAirplane Media, a film marketing firm.

The lack of a multi-billion-dollar box office signaled a sea change for the industry. In the years leading up to the Covid-19 pandemic, and even last year, several blockbuster films grossed more than $1 billion worldwide.

The lack of such blockbusters is especially stark in 2023 disney, with Marvel, Star Wars, Pixar and traditional fairy tale franchises. While the studio is poised to be this year’s box office ruler, a string of missteps in recent months has raised concerns that audience preferences are changing too quickly for Hollywood to adapt.

In February, “Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantum Fever” failed to appeal to all but the most devoted Marvel fans, grossing just $214.5 million domestically and less than $500 million worldwide. “Element,” which opened just last month, is currently the second-lowest domestic grosser of any Pixar film in the studio’s history, just ahead of 2020’s “Onward,” whose box office was cut short by the pandemic.

Disney’s Lucasfilm’s “Raiders of the Lost Ark: At Disk,” which opens on June 30, is expected to struggle to recoup its nearly $300 million production budget. To date, the film has grossed $122.1 million domestically and $221.4 million worldwide.

“Overall, I think Disney is in what was widely expected to emerge from the pandemic and undergo another leadership change,” said Shawn Robbins, principal analyst at BoxOffice.com. A hugely influential factor that has reshaped the studio’s status in many ways, especially at the box office, given their top franchises and brands have been firing on all cylinders over the past decade. If not for the occasional ebb and flow.”

Disney CEO Bob Iger told CNBC’s David Faber on Thursday that the company will cut Marvel and Star Wars content to cut costs and revive its brand.

A highlight for Disney was James Gunn’s final curtain call at Marvel Studios. “Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3” is the third-highest-grossing film domestically so far this year, with $357.5 million. It’s second only to Sony’s Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse. Gunn now helps lead Warner Bros. Discovery Channel’s DC Studios.

The third Guardians of the Galaxy movie has grossed $834.2 million worldwide since its release in May, but likely won’t hit the coveted $1 billion threshold.

It’s worth noting that Disney’s “Avatar: Way of Water” grossed over $1 billion worldwide in 2023, but since it opens in 2022, it doesn’t count as a billion-dollar movie this year.

“Through 2023, the billion-dollar club appears to be becoming even more exclusive,” said Paul Dergarabedian, senior media analyst at Comscore. So far, this year’s films lack both global influence and absolute dominance in the market, unable to cross the $1 billion threshold in the fiercely competitive global film market.”

The World’s Highest Grossing Movies of 2023

  1. “Super Mario Bros. The Movie” (Universal Pictures) — $1.34 billion
  2. “Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3” (Disney) – $834.2 million
  3. “Fast X” (Universal Pictures) — $702.8 million
  4. Riverside Red (EDKO Films) — $647.8 million
  5. “Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse” (Sony) — $643.5 million
  6. “The Wandering Earth 2” (China Film Group Corporation) — $585.5 million
  7. The Little Mermaid (Disney) — $542.9 million
  8. Ant-Man and The Wasp: Quantum Fever (Disney) — $471.3 million
  9. “Lost Star” (Alibaba Pictures) — $428.5 million
  10. John Wick: Chapter 4 (Lionsgate) — $432.5 million

*This list excludes films that will be released in 2022 and generate box office revenue in 2023.

The Chinese market, in particular, has been a major driver of previous multi-billion-dollar blockbusters, but the region has been more selective about which Hollywood films it allows. China has also developed its own lucrative movie market.

For example, between 15% and 22% of the box office grosses for most Marvel movies released before the pandemic came from China. Only a handful of such comic book films have played on the country’s screens in the wake of the pandemic, and those that have, have seen their revenues slash.

The first two Ant-Man films, released in 2015 and 2018, generated about 20% of their box office receipts in China. Meanwhile, “Ant-Man and The Wasp: Quantum Fever” sold just 8 percent of its box office in China.

“Globally, China has developed into a market where certain films and franchises can no longer be counted on to generate blockbusters, leaving a hole that may be difficult to fill in the short term,” Robbins said.

dry period

Declining box office receipts in China, combined with a slower-than-expected return of domestic moviegoers, are holding back blockbuster releases in 2023, resulting in fewer billion-dollar films.

The number of billionaires worldwide has grown significantly over the past decade, with Disney claiming most of the chart-topping titles. In fact, the studio released films worth at least $1 billion a year between 2014 and 2019, when it released $7 billion in films.

It didn’t produce a $1 billion movie in 2020 or 2021 due to pandemic restrictions, but 2022’s “Avatar: Way of Water” topped $2 billion.

“Since 2019 was an outlier, I think 2023 could also be considered an outlier,” said PaperAirplane’s Polydoros. “As they say in the test, throw out the highest and lowest results and go from there. I Think the same theory applies to the box office as a whole.”

Numerous box office analysts who spoke to CNBC agreed with Polidoros. They point out that while many of Disney’s titles have fallen short of expectations, the studio remains a formidable competitor at the domestic and global box office.

“Disney is unlikely to have a billion-dollar global performer this year,” Dergarabedian said. “However, to be fair, Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3, The Little Mermaid, Ant-Man: The Wasp: Quantum of Frenzy and Elements have grossed over $2 billion worldwide.”

still on it

Despite tepid results from the ever-stalwart Disney, the studio has grossed more domestically than any other studio so far this year.

Through June, Disney accounted for 30% of the domestic box office total, or $1.3 billion, according to Comscore.

The studio also has four of the ten highest-grossing domestic films so far this year.

Top-grossing domestic films so far in 2023

  1. “Super Mario Bros. The Movie” (Universal Pictures) — $573.7 million
  2. “Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse” (Sony) — $357.6 million
  3. Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 (Disney) — $357.5 million
  4. The Little Mermaid (Disney) — $289.2 million
  5. “Avatar: Way of Water” (Disney) – $283 million
  6. “Ant-Man and The Wasp: Quantum Fever” (Disney) — $214.5 million
  7. John Wick: Chapter 4 (Lionsgate) — $187.1 million
  8. “Tenet III” (MGM) – $156.2 million
  9. “Transformers: Rise of the Beast” (Paramount) — $146.8 million
  10. “Fast X” (Universal Pictures) — $145.9 million

“As always, it depends on the content,” Polidoros said.

Whether Disney’s upcoming releases like The Haunted, Marvel, or Wish can generate a billion-dollar benchmark remains to be seen, but a diverse portfolio bodes well for the company.

“2024 does look more promising on multiple fronts, and their original animated film Wishes could be a hit later this year if it lives up to its potential with audiences, and it’s Frozen The series has been such a success.” Robbins.

Disney’s Upcoming Productions

  • The Haunted House – July 28
  • Friends on Vacation 2 – August 25
  • “Poor Thing” – September 8
  • Haunted Venice – September 15
  • The Creator – September 29
  • Marvel – November 10
  • “The Next Goal Wins” – November 17
  • “Wish” – November 22
  • “Magazine Dreams” – December 8

Disclosure: Comcast is the parent company of NBCUniversal and CNBC.

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