'Mary Poppins Returns' caps off Disney's practically perfect year

Mary Poppins returns to theaters just in time to put a bow on Disney's big box office year."...

Posted: Dec 20, 2018 6:57 PM
Updated: Dec 20, 2018 6:57 PM

Mary Poppins returns to theaters just in time to put a bow on Disney's big box office year.

"Mary Poppins Returns," the sequel to the 1964 Disney classic, made $4.7 million on its opening day on Wednesday. The film, which stars Emily Blunt as the magical nanny, is expected to make around $40 million over the Wednesday to Sunday holiday weekend, according to industry analysts.

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Disney raked in more than $7 billion at the worldwide box office this year. The only other time a studio has made this much was in 2016 when Disney set the record for the highest-grossing year in global history at $7.6 billion. Even if "Mary Poppins" flies higher than expected, it's unlikely Disney will break its own record. But its achievements this year are impressive.

Seven of the nine films Disney released in 2018 brought in more than $100 million domestically. That includes the year's highest-grossing film in the U.S., Marvel's "Black Panther," the highest-grossing opening of all time, Marvel's "Avengers: Infinity War," and the highest-grossing animated film of all time domestically, Pixar's "Incredibles 2."

The company had a huge year despite three notable box office disappointments with "A Wrinkle in Time," "The Nutcracker and the Four Realms" and "Solo: A Star Wars Story," which made nearly $400 million globally -- still a big number, but a lackluster total by "Star Wars" standards.

Disney reigned at the box office in 2016 and 2017 and it will be Hollywood's highest-grossing studio again in 2018, a year in which box office revenue is up roughly 9% over last year's box office total, according to Comscore. It was able to pull this off at a time when movie theaters face growing competition with streaming services such as Netflix and Amazon.

Alan Horn, Walt Disney Studios' chairman, told CNN Business that this year showed that "great films bring people to the theater."

"I'm a big believer in the power of the movie theater -- there's nothing else like it and when people enjoy that experience, it reinforces that and encourages folks to come back," Horn said. "But it has to be quality content, and when it is, as we've seen this year, there's room in the market for everyone."

Shawn Robbins, chief analyst at BoxOffice.com, believes that the company's brands such as Marvel, Pixar and Disney Animation kept revving along all year.

"Their deep roster of reliable brands is the first and obvious answer to why they've been so successful," Robbins said. "But the aspect that deserves equal attention is the level of creative direction and ownership their studios ultimately have."

As successful as 2018 has been for Disney, it could be the prologue to even a bigger year in 2019.

Disney has a powerhouse lineup of films next year that includes "Captain Marvel," Tim Burton's live-action "Dumbo," "Avengers: End Game," a live-action remake of "Aladdin" starring Will Smith, "Toy Story 4," a live-action/animated remake of "The Lion King" starring Beyoncé, "Frozen 2" and the final chapter of the new "Star Wars" trilogy, "Star Wars: Episode IX."

"2019 looks to take this year's success and turn it up to 11 with perhaps one of the most anticipated slates ever assembled in a single year," said Paul Dergarabedian, senior media analyst at Comscore.

Disney is expected to complete its purchase of most of 21st Century Fox's assets next year, which will bring over a slew of new intellectual property, including X-Men and "Avatar."

It will also debut "Disney+," a new streaming service that will compete with Netflix. Disney will also open "Star Wars: Galaxy's Edge," the largest expansion ever at its theme parks.

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