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Box office has biggest ever year thanks to mega-hits

By AFP - Jan 13,2020 - Last updated at Jan 13,2020

LOS ANGELES — If streaming was meant to mark the demise of movie theatres, Disney did not get the memo.

Theatres around the world took in an all-time record $42.5 billion last year, thanks largely to an unprecedented string of international mega-hits from the Mouse House such as “Avengers: Endgame”, “The Lion King” and “Frozen II”.

Most of the growth came outside North America, in booming markets such as China, Japan and South Korea, as well as Russia, Brazil, Mexico and western Europe, industry analyst Comscore found in its annual report Friday.

But North American theatres still had their second-biggest ever year, taking more than $11 billion despite a relatively sluggish first six months.

“Endgame” became the world’s highest-grossing film, taking $2.798 billion to surpass “Avatar” (2009), although it fell short of the domestic box office record held by 2015’s “Star Wars: The Force Awakens”.

In a sign of its popularity, the movie was still showing in US picture houses four months after its release.

Superhero films “Captain Marvel” and “Spider-Man: Far From Home” (co-produced with Sony) rounded out an all-Disney global top five. 

“The stars really did align for Disney in 2019, it was just a spectacular year,” said Comscore senior media analyst Paul Dergarabedian.

“Having another year like 2019, I don’t know when we’ll see that from any studio in the new future,” he said, adding that Disney does have blockbusters like “Mulan” and “Black Widow” lined up for 2020.

The overall $42.5 billion take surpassed last year’s record, which was set at $41.7 billion. Figures were not adjusted for inflation.

Streaming platforms such as Netflix have disrupted the industry by luring top talent and vastly out-spending Tinseltown’s traditional studios in recent years, leading many to predict movie theatres would suffer.

For instance Netflix gave its prestige production, Martin Scorsese crime epic “The Irishman”, a relatively miniscule 26-day window in theatres before the movie launched on its small-screen streaming platform.

“Streaming is great — it makes people more excited about content in general,” said Dergarabedian. “One does not exclude the other... They are competing platforms, but they are both fuelling excitement.”

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