Directors Anthony and Joe Russo climbed the ladder again in Deadline’s Most Valuable Blockbuster Tournament, winning for a second year in a row thanks to the all-time. record-breaking. $2.79 billion-grossing Avengers: Endgame, which netted close to a $900 million profit for Walt Disney Studios after all theatrical rentals, global home entertainment and TV profits. The Russos, of course, cut last year’s net with Avengers: Infinity War, which made an estimated profit of a half billion.
It’s also the third consecutive year that Disney has won the Deadline tournament (surprise, surprise) going back to 2017 with Star Wars: The Last Jedi‘s $417.5M net profit. Since our 2013 edition, Disney has won a total of four times, beginning in 2015 with Star Wars: The Force Awakens, which made a $926.9M net profit.
With the absence of weekend box office reporting due to theaters’ global shutdown during the coronavirus pandemic, we expanded this year’s tourney to the Top 25 films ranked by net profit instead of the Top 10. The format was set up to provide a better idea of a film’s bottom-line performance, beyond the weekend and annual box office standings. It’s also a reminder about the financial upside and breadth of a theatrical window release and how it can trigger downstream monies when a film hits a grand slam at the box office. What works in the window system? Studios have always found a way for the consumer to buy the same content more than once in different mediums, and it all starts on the big screen.
Last year at this time, we could see how Endgame, in the wake of Infinity War‘s success, could potentially topple Avatar (which it did) as the highest-grossing movie of all time worldwide. And it was clear given Disney’s robust franchise slate that billion-dollar-grossing titles were in store in 2019 with Endgame, Frozen 2, The Lion King, Aladdin, Captain Marvel, Toy Story 4, and Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker. Last year was always teed up to be a very rich box office profit tournament.
But what about 2020? How will it look?
It’s clear nothing will reach the dynamic of Endgame for quite some time with the anticipated three-month shutdown of cinemas due to COVID-19 (fours months going on five for China); perhaps Avatar 2 on December 17, 2021. And with the worldwide attrition of theaters expected as exhibition sheds its bad leases and re-calibrates its overhead, one wonders about a studio’s feasibility to notch a billion-dollar-grossing title in a new world order. To date, the highest-grossing movies of 2020 are Sony’s Bad Boys for Life ($419.1M), Paramount’s Sonic the Hedgehog ($306.7M), Universal’s Dolittle ($223.3M) and Invisible Man ($122.9M), STX/Miramax’s The Gentlemen ($115M) and Disney/Pixar’s Onward ($103.1M).
Also, in the wake of Universal’s near estimated $100M U.S. gross from its Trolls World Tour PVOD experiment, plus a number of smaller-budgeted movies like STX’s My Spy, Universal’s King of Staten Island and Paramount/MRC’s The Lovebirds heading into homes and skipping theaters, what becomes of low-cost movies that typically yield big profits at the box office? There were a number of those in 2019 with STX’s Hustlers, Focus Features’ Downton Abbey, Sony’s Little Women, New Line’s The Curse of La Llorona, the list goes on. Will studios continue to tap the PVOD window and force exhibition for a theatrical play at the same time? Will the theatrical window close once we come out of COVID-19? Will moviegoing even look the same, with attendees expected to come back slowly? Some heavy stuff to consider for 2020’s Most Valuable Blockbuster Tournament.
A huge amount of gratitude to Deadline co-Editor-in-Chief Mike Fleming Jr., Executive Managing Editor Patrick Hipes and Photo Editor Brandon Choe whose hard work makes this annual series of box office articles possible.
Deadline’s Top 25 of 2019
Rank | Movie | (Studio) | Net Profit
- Avengers: Endgame (Dis) – $890M
- Frozen 2 (Dis) – $599M
- Lion King (Dis) – $580M
- Joker (WB/Bron/Village Roadshow) – $437M
- Captain Marvel (Dis) – $414M
- Toy Story 4 (Dis) – $368M
- Aladdin (Dis) – $356M
- Spider-Man: Far From Home (Sony) – $339M
- Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker (Dis) – $300M
- Jumanji: The Next Level (Sony) – $236M
- It Chapter Two (NL) – $169M
- How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World (Uni/DWA) – $130M
- Us (Uni) – $119M
- The Secret Life of Pets 2 (Uni/Ill) – $118M
- John Wick: Chapter 3 – Parabellum (LG) – $89M
- Downton Abbey (Focus) – $88M
- Hobbs & Shaw (Uni) – $84M
- Knives Out (LG/MRC) – $83M
- 1917 (Uni/Amblin) – $77M
- The Addams Family (MGM) – $76M
- Shazam! (NL) – $74M
- Glass (Uni) – $68M
- Annabelle Comes Home (NL) – $64M
- Little Women (Sony) – $56M
- Hustlers (STX) – $47M
HONORABLE MENTION: Escape Room (Sony), $46.6M; Parasite (Neon), $46.2M; The Curse of La Llorona (New Line), $45.6M; Yesterday (Universal), $45M; Good Boys (Universal), $39M
TOP 5 MISFIRES: X-Men: Dark Phoenix (20th/Disney), $133M; Terminator: Dark Fate (Paramount/Skydance), $122.6M; Cats (Universal), $113.2M; Gemini Man (Paramount/Skydance), $111.1M; Missing Link (United Artists Releasing/Laika), $101.3M
Here’s the data breakdown (scroll across to see all movies in our tournament):