Despite ‘The Lion King,’ ‘Spider-Man’ and Other Hits, Summer Box Office Slips 2%

Even with an impressive number of billion-dollar blockbusters, the 2019 summer box office won’t be one for the record books.

Popcorn season, the four-month stretch between May and August, generated $4.32 billion in ticket sales in North America, marking a 2% decline from last year’s $4.41 billion, according to Comscore. The summer box office has certainly seen worse (in 2017, ticket sales hit a 10-year low with $3.84 billion). However, those uninspired returns pushed year-to-date revenues down over 6%, meaning the movie business will need to rely on huge hits in fall and winter to offset that deficit.

Lionsgate’s “Angel Has Fallen” topped the Labor Day holiday weekend with $14.8 million at 3,336 locations, for an 11-day total of nearly $44 million. Universal’s third weekend of “Good Boys” finished second with $11.6 million at 3,458 sites to top $58 million. Disney’s seventh frame of its photo-realistic remake of “The Lion King” took third with $9.3 million, followed by Universal’s fifth session of “Hobbs & Shaw” with $8.1 million and Sony’s second weekend of “Overcomer” with $7.8 million.

Disney walked away the big winner this summer as three movies — “The Lion King,” “Aladdin” and “Toy Story 4” — grossed more than $1 billion worldwide over the summer. “The Lion King” was the highest-grossing film this summer with domestic ticket sales at $523.5 million to date. Through the first weekend in September, the company commands 40% of the domestic box office.

But even the biggest Hollywood studio didn’t emerge unscathed. Disney was saddled with a handful of duds after merging with Fox, and “Dark Phoenix,” “Stuber” and “The Art of Racing in the Rain” resulted in costly write-downs.

Thanks to hits like “Once Upon a Time in Hollywood” and “Spider-Man: Far From Home,” Sony also had a promising summer. The studio secured second place in terms of marketshare for the first time since 2010. It closed out the summer with $700 million at the domestic box office, Sony’s biggest haul since 2006. “Spider-Man: Far From Home” finished Labor Day with $386 million.

However, a number of underperforming franchises are mostly to blame for the overall decline in ticket sales. While not all sequels struggled — Lionsgate’s “John Wick 3” is now the highest-grossing entry, and “Angel Has Fallen” scored a series-best debut — new installments from properties including “Godzilla,” “Men in Black” and “The Secret Life of Pets” failed to live up to the box office heights of their predecessors.

Last summer, blockbusters like Disney’s “Incredibles 2,” Universal’s “Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom” and Paramount’s “Mission: Impossible – Fallout” drove box office receipts to impressive heights. However, the strongest period to date still belongs to 2013, when revenues over the four-month frame reached $4.75 billion.

After a mixed summer season, studios and exhibitors are hoping tentpoles including “Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker,” another “Jumanji” sequel, “It: Chapter Two” and “Frozen 2” can lift ticket sales through the end of the year.

Dave McNary contributed to this report.

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