Endless summer: Why Hollywood could nab its biggest box office year ever

The US box office is on track to break records this year, crossing the $10 billion mark faster than ever bef...

Posted: Nov 16, 2018 8:49 PM
Updated: Nov 16, 2018 8:49 PM

The US box office is on track to break records this year, crossing the $10 billion mark faster than ever before.

Big films like Marvel's "Black Panther" and surprise hits like "A Quiet Place" have so far contributed to the massive domestic box office haul, which is 10.5% ahead of last year and 5.7% ahead of 2016's record year, according to ComScore. And there are still several months left in 2018.

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The hits came all year in 2018 and not just during the summer blockbuster months like most have in the past. "Black Panther," "Avengers: Infinity War" and "Venom" all set records at the box office, and did so in February, April and October, respectively. It wasn't just comic book movies, either. "Halloween," "A Star Is Born" and "A Quiet Place" all exceeded expectations at the box office, making it an endless summer at the cineplex.

A year round blockbuster schedule has been a growing trend in Hollywood, but other factors such as diversity and the popularity of movie subscription services such as MoviePass has really helped put 2018 over the top.

BoxOffice.com chief analyst Shawn Robbins told CNN Business that he would be "shocked" if 2018 didn't turn out to be a banner year for the box office.

"We've seen so much momentum up to this point that it would probably take an unpredictable outside force to prevent a new record," he said.

In 2016, the film industry raked in $11.4 billion, but that achievement came with a bit of an asterisk since the record numbers could be attributed, in part, to a rise in ticket prices rather than more foot traffic at theaters.

Paul Dergarabedian, senior media analyst at Comscore, believes that there's more than just inflation at work this year.

"Certainly increased ticket prices powers higher revenue, but the gains this year are not just in terms of a rising dollar," Dergarabedian told CNN Business. "A 10% plus advantage over 2017 means that more people are indeed going to the movies."

Robbins also pointed out that diversity dominated the box office in 2018 with nearly half of the top 20 films starring or co-starring women or people of color. That includes "Black Panther," "Ocean's 8" and "Crazy Rich Asians."

"Representation on the big screen has taken a huge leap forward this year," he said.

MoviePass could've also had a hand in the box office's successful year.

The subscription service, which made a splash when it began charging $10 a month for access to one movie a day, skyrocketed in popularity this year accumulating 3 million subscribers before crashing back to earth over the summer.

While its impact is hard to gauge, Jeff Bock, senior box office analyst at Exhibitor Relations, believes MoviePass may have given a bit of a boost to this year's numbers.

"MoviePass and other subscription-based services cannot be undervalued," Bock told CNN Business. "Even though MoviePass is struggling, they ushered in a new way of movie going and jolted the industry."

The final stretch of 2018 begins this weekend with "Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald." The prequel, which takes place in the wizarding world of Harry Potter, nabbed $9.1 million on Thursday night and is expected to bring in around $65 million at the domestic box office for Warner Bros.

There are still more potential hits to come as 2018 winds down: "Ralph Breaks the Internet" and "Creed II" come out next week and "Aquaman" and "Mary Poppins Returns" premiere next month.

"I don't see anything stopping the box office avalanche at this point," Bock added.

That avalanche could slide into 2019, which may be another record year with films such as "Avengers 4," "The Lion King" and "Star Wars: Episode IX" all on the docket.

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