Sunday 20 January 2019

Hollywood sees off Netflix threat in record year at global box office

Success: Chadwick Boseman in ‘Black Panther’, which made $700m in North America
Success: Chadwick Boseman in ‘Black Panther’, which made $700m in North America

Nick Allen

FIVE years ago, Steven Spielberg and George Lucas said the traditional film industry was heading for a "meltdown", undercut by internet streaming services like Netflix, Hulu and Amazon Prime Video.

However, instead of a meltdown, Hollywood finished 2018 with an all-time record haul at the box office, both in the United States and globally.

It turns out the men who gave the world 'Star Wars' and 'Indiana Jones' may have misjudged the audience.

Against all odds, it seems that more people than ever are going to the movies.

It was a record summer, a record Thanksgiving, and a record Christmas looks set to put the annual North American box office take over $12bn (€10.48bn) for the first time, up more than 10pc on last year.

Globally, annual box office receipts are up 3.5pc.

On Christmas Day, 'Aquaman', the new Warner Bros comic book film, took $22m (€19.2m).

Over the five days leading up to Christmas, it took $105m (€91.7m), making it one of the most successful festive openings of recent years, bar 'Avatar' and 'Star Wars: The Force Awakens'.

'Mary Poppins Returns' took second place, with $11.6m (€10.1m) on Christmas Day.

In its first week, the remake of the 1964 classic has taken $50m (€43.7m).

The success of the films broke records - the weekend before Christmas saw US box offices take $11.383bn - breaking the previous record of $11.382bn, set in 2016.

The reason for the huge surge in movie-going in the United States may have something to do with living in uncertain times, according to box office experts.

"Everybody's been talking about how internet streaming would kill the movie star, but it hasn't," said Paul Dergarabedian, senior media analyst for ComScore.

"It might be something in the zeitgeist.

"This happened in the Great Depression. When the going gets tough, people go to the movies.

"There's certainly an air of uncertainty in the political arena, and in the world, at the moment. It's escapism."

He added: "The key indicator for me is that a lot of movies actually had terrible reviews, but they still did great business.

"People decided they wanted to go to the movies anyway. It's just been an incredible year at the box office."

As an example, even 'Venom', a superhero movie critics panned as an "incoherent train wreck", made hundreds of millions of dollars at the box office.

There were also suggestions the movie-going trend could have been a reaction against the increasingly pervasive effect of social media and smartphones in people's lives.

"Maybe the movie theatre is the only place you can go off the grid for real now," said Mr Dergarabedian.

"People get nostalgic for going to the movies. It's in our DNA."

Another factor was the decision by Hollywood studios to adjust their traditional "tent-pole strategy", which used to see each studio release its biggest mega-budget movie during the summer.

Instead, some of the most popular films of 2018 were released at the other times of year.

'Black Panther', with an almost entirely black cast, became the highest grossing film of the year in North America, pulling in $700m (€611m), despite being released in usually quiet February.

The film now ranks as the third-biggest movie of all time in North America, behind 'Star Wars: The Force Awakens', and 'Avatar'.

'Crazy Rich Asians', the first big Hollywood studio film to feature a majority Asian-American cast, also performed well, making $238m (€207m) at the box office, after costing only $30m (€26.2m) to produce.

There were unexpected hits, too, like horror film 'A Quiet Place' and the romantic drama 'A Star Is Born', starring Lady Gaga, both of which brought in around $350m (€305m).

Erik Davis, managing editor of Fandango, the ticket website, said: "We're living in a time right now where people want to escape to be entertained." (© Daily Telegraph London)

Irish Independent

Today's news headlines, directly to your inbox every morning.

Editors Choice

Also in World News