Hollywood insiders explain why the box office has had an incredible rebound in 2018

Marvel‘Black Panther’ is the top-grossing movie of 2018 domestically so far with over $US700 million earned.
  • The 2018 box office is up 9% from last year, and the summer movie season is up over 11%.
  • This has happened thanks to sequels working and audiences flocking to diverse titles like “Black Panther” and “Crazy Rich Asians.”

At the start of 2018, the forecast for the box office was not great.

Coming off a 2017 when Hollywood saw one of the worst summer movie seasons in history, and a year when movie attendance was at its lowest in 25 years, Wall Street braced everyone for an unremarkable 2018.

But so far the 2018 box office hasn’t just turned out to be better than 2017; it’s having one of its best in recent memory.

Not only are all the sequels hitting on the mark, or better than projected (remember when we were complaining there were too many sequels being made?), but there are also movies being released by the major studios that cater to diverse audiences, and those have turned out to be cash cows, too. Highlights include Disney’s “Black Panther” at the beginning of the year and “Crazy Rich Asians” from Warner Bros. to close out the summer.

“Diversity and inclusion in film is paying off big,” comScore box-office analyst Paul Dergarabedian told Business Insider. “‘Black Panther’ was important on so many levels: box office, culturally, how it resonated with audiences around the world. It set the tone in a lot of ways in how the year was going to be different, but much more exciting and financially more robust than anyone had imagined.”

Crazy Rich AsiansWarner Bros.From ‘Black Panther’ to ‘Crazy Rich Asians,’ diversity in movies is paying off big.

And things have only gotten better in the summer months, as the box office compared to last summer is up over 11%. Some observers believed the only way the box office could go was up because 2017’s summer was the worst in decades. But the number of movies that worked between the release of “Avengers: Infinity War” in late April to “Crazy Rich Asians” this past weekend was staggering.

So what was so different from this summer season compared to last? Could a MoviePass bump be the reason?

Since the movie-ticket subscription service changed to a $US9.95-per-month model to see one movie a day, it has gained over 3 million subscribers. And its members used the service so much over this summer that MoviePass barely stayed in business by August.

“Credit MoviePass a little,” Jeff Bock, senior analyst for Exhibitor Relations, told Business Insider. “They have certainly helped create a bigger appetite for audiences.”

MoviePass boasted it was responsible for 6% of the domestic box-office take this year (which is currently up 9% compared to this time last year).

But not everyone is sold.

MoviePassHollis Johnson/Business InsiderSo is there such a thing as a MoviePass bump? MoviePass boasts that it’s responsible for 6% of the 2018 box office.

“I don’t know, I feel like it still just comes down to the content,” Dergarabedian said in reference to any MoviePass bump. “I don’t see that as the driving force. It’s more emotionally driven than financially driven. I think more important is what is the social-media chatter about a movie. I would lay any boom or bust more at the doorstep of social media than any other factor.”

What everyone can agree on is that the 2018 box office has been fuelled by the success of movie sequels this summer, which in past years have not done so well. But in 2018 it seems Hollywood concocted the perfect formula of franchises audiences wanted to see – “The Avengers,” “Mission: Impossible,” “Incredibles,” “Deadpool,” “Jurassic World” – and followed through by making good sequels.

“There were really no high-profile bombs this summer,” Bock said. “That’s a lot of credit for Hollywood, as audiences are more apt to sample another sequel if the hits keep coming. Negative reviews and media scrutiny can actually erode the entire box office when bombs are dropping left and right.”

But the hit sequels are not a surprise at the studios. Universal’s president of domestic theatrical distribution, Jim Orr, told Business Insider that last year’s stories about the death of the summer movie season were greatly exaggerated.

“This is not hindsight or Monday-morning quarterbacking. Last summer had a couple of titles move out of late summer and you had a couple of titles that underperformed and then all of a sudden people were writing about the death of the industry and that was just never going to be the case,” he said. “There was just too much good product to be slated for this year, and the year after, and the year after.”

Jurassic world fallen kingdomUniversalUniversal’s ‘Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom’ is the studio’s top earner of the year so far. But it has also found success with titles ranging from the comedy ‘Blockers’ to the actioner ‘Skyscraper.’

Though Disney is still ruling the box office this year with titles like “Black Panther,” “Avengers: Infinity War,” and “Incredibles 2,” Universal always brings a more diverse slate to audiences and is in second place with releases like “Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom,” “Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again,” the teen comedy surprise hit “Blockers,” and “Skyscraper,” which hasn’t done well domestically but has earned over $US225 million internationally.

Orr believes the successful 2018 box office has proved that audiences don’t want just superhero movies. They want a variety of stories to choose from at the multiplex.

“We purposely have a very diversified approach to our slate,” he said. “We did exactly that in the summer of 2018, it’s just the perfect example of trying to reach every audience and have something for everybody. Different genres available to the audience can pay off extraordinarily well.”

But will the Wall Street forecast come to fruition the rest of the year? Titles like “Venom,” “Aquaman,” and “Mary Poppins Returns” are the big moneymakers on paper. Yet they could bomb.

Venom SonySonyWill ‘Venom’ be one of the breakout box office hits in the fall?

This year there’s no “Star Wars” end-of-the-year release to pick up any slack, and 2018 marks the first time since 2014 (the year before “Star Wars: The Force Awakens” opened) that Disney is not releasing a movie from the beloved saga in December. It released “Solo: A Star Wars Story” in May.

“We’re not going to have a good September,” Dergarabedian said, adding that last year’s September did so well because of the record-breaking success of “It” from Warner Bros. There’s no major title like that slated for September.

“But there’s a lot still on the way,” he added. “The Oscar season films could break out, especially the ones that are topical. That’s the nature of the beast: It’s a cyclical business.”

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