Hollywood is in a precarious position as it heads into the second half of 2019 with a sluggish box office that, according to Comscore (SCOR) data, is down roughly 8.6% compared to this time last year.
But there is reason to be optimistic about the rest of the year at the cineplex, according to Jeff Bock, senior analyst at entertainment research firm Exhibitor Relations.
“When you do a straight week-to-week comparison of the second half of 2019 with 2018, things look much brighter for the industry as a whole,” Bock told CNN Business. “There’s more major blockbusters that people actually want to see, as well as specialty films that will likely fill Hollywood coffers.”
The first half of 2018 was dominated by hits like “Black Panther” and “A Quiet Place,” while the second half of the year was slower. This year, the trend could be reversed, with many potential blockbusters coming after the summer that could wake up the sleepy US box office: “Fast and Furious” spinoff “Hobbs & Shaw” in August, “It: Chapter Two” in September, “Joker” in October and “Jumanji: The Next Level” in December.
There are also potential Oscar-contenders that could break out like “Once Upon a Time in Hollywood,” which comes out in two weeks. The Quentin Tarantino film, which stars Brad Pitt and Leonardo DiCaprio, premiered to incredible fanfare at Cannes earlier this year. Then there’s “Ford v Ferrari” starring Matt Damon and Christian Bale, “A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood” starring Tom Hanks as Mister Rogers in November and Greta Gerwig’s adaptation of “Little Women” in December.
And let’s not forget about Disney
Disney (DIS) dominated the first half of the year with more than $2.1 billion in ticket sales and a 35% market share. Disney (DIS) also has the top four highest-grossing films of the year, including the record-shattering “Avengers: Endgame,” “Captain Marvel,” “Aladdin” and “Toy Story 4.”
The second half of 2019 could be just as lucrative for Disney. “The Lion King” comes out next week, “Maleficent: Mistress of Evil” starring Angelina Jolie in October, “Frozen 2” in November and the final chapter of the Skywalker saga, “Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker” in December.
“As long as sequelitis doesn’t cripple audiences, 2019 should see upticks on all the important weekends versus last year,” Bock said.
The first half of the year was dismal for sequels. “Godzilla: King of The Monsters,” “Men In Black International” and “Dark Phoenix” all failed to meet industry expectations. Even the beloved “Toy Story 4,” which opened to $121 million in June, couldn’t match Disney’s high box office expectations.
“2019’s first half was a roller coaster of expectations versus reality,” Shawn Robbins, chief analyst at Boxoffice.com, told CNN Business. “Where a handful of blockbusters delivered, there were a number of high profile releases between January and June mired by either poor quality, lack of audience interest, or — in many cases — both.”
In order to create a more balanced Hollywood ecosystem, studios -— and not just Disney — need to succeed in the rest of 2019, according to Robbins.
“It’s important that the industry not have to rely on Disney to do the heavy lifting because what they’ve done for the past two years isn’t likely to happen again in 2020,” he said. “‘Avengers: Endgame’ was a cinematic event, and cinematic events aren’t guaranteed to happen every single year.”