by Ray Keating
May 3, 2023
What’s the right rate of success for Hollywood movies in terms of being profitable? Given the many mysteries of film industry accounting, general estimates are all over the place, with many pointing to a 50-50 chance overall, though higher for big-budget movies.
This question came to mind looking at Disney’s big budget movie performance in 2022, early 2023, and looking at the rest of this year.
Deadline.com recently provided some valuable estimates, with one report focused on 2022’s most valuable blockbusters, and another on Hollywood’s biggest bombs of 2022. Disney was well represented on both lists.
As for the biggest successes, four of the top 10 were Disney films. Avatar: The Way of Water came in at number one, with Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness at number four, Black Panther: Wakanda Forever at number five, and Thor: Love and Thunder at number nine.
However, it also should be noted that among the three Marvel movies on the list, while Dr. Strange ranked as unique, interesting and entertaining, Thor: Love and Thunder was largely panned by critics, and Wakanda Forever was, well, a yawner.
Meanwhile, Disney had three of the five big budget bombs noted by Deadline. In fact, Disney had the three worst performers. The losses by Deadline’s estimates were staggering, with Disney’s Strange World coming in the very worst at a $197.4 million loss; followed by the Disney/New Regency vehicle Amsterdam losing $108.4 million; and then Pixar/Disney’s Lightyear registering the third biggest loss at $106 million.
And then we had Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania arrive in theaters this past February. This movie is supposed to kick off Phase 5 of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. But that film’s global gross was only $474.6 million, according to BoxOfficeMojo.com. Critics were displeased as well. A reported pre-production and filming budget of nearly $200 million means that when everything is tallied up in the end, Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania likely will be a money loser for Disney.
And what lies ahead for the rest of this year? Well, Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 opens this weekend. It has a reported pre-production and filming budget of $250 million. Opening weekend box office projections are running at $250-$260 million globally. Of course, it’s staying power will be the test. But when you look at the coming MCU titles, Guardians 3 offers Disney its best hope on the MCU front.
The next installment is The Marvels, arriving in November. And quite frankly, it’s hard to find any excitement or anticipation for this movie, and the same pretty much goes for the 2024 movies on the list – Captain America: New World Order, Thunderbolts and Blade.
Disney is hoping for the best with a live-action remake of The Little Mermaid (May 26) and another crack at Haunted Mansion (July 28), while Elemental (June 16) will be a big test to see if Pixar can shake off a period of underwhelming movies – besides the Lightyear bomb. But one doesn’t exactly get a feeling of confidence from this list either.
In the end, the greatest anticipation and hope for the Disney box office in 2023 swirls around Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny (June 30). There seems to be real excitement for the return of Harrison Ford one more time as the iconic Indiana Jones. We trust that director James Mangold is up to the challenge, and he won’t make the same dumb mistake that the James Bond people made, that is, Mangold will not kill Indiana Jones.
For what it’s worth, after seeing Dial of Destiny, according to Variety, Steven Spielberg declared, “Bob Iger had a screening for a lot of the Disney executives, and I came to the screening along with the director James Mangold. Everybody loved the movie. It’s really, really a good ‘Indiana Jones’ film. I’m really proud of what Jim has done with it… When the lights came up I just turned to the group and said, ‘Damn! I thought I was the only one who knew how to make one of these.’”
Indy fans and Disney shareholders are praying that Spielberg is right.
Ray Keating is the editor, publisher and economist for DisneyBizJournal.com; and author of the Pastor Stephen Grant thrillers and mysteries, and the Alliance of Saint Michael novels; and assorted nonfiction books. Have Ray Keating speak your group, business, school, church, or organization. Email him at email@example.com.
The views expressed here are his own – after all, no one else should be held responsible for this stuff, right?
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