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Disney's Film Studios Take Center Stage as Avengers Breaks Records in China

By Danny Vena – May 19, 2018 at 1:03PM

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Marvel's superhero team-up movie has become a worldwide phenomenon, pointing to a broader shift at the House of Mouse.

The unprecedented success of Black Panther was, in many ways, a defining moment for The Walt Disney Company (DIS -2.60%) and Marvel Studios. It was the best-performing single superhero movie in history, shattering long-held industry notions about the potential for success of a largely minority cast and also quieting any concerns over superhero fatigue.

Coming so closely on the heels of such a watershed movie, expectations were high for Avengers: Infinity War. The movie shattered opening weekend box office records, taking in $258 million at home and $640 million worldwide, to become the biggest box office opener, both domestically and abroad, in movie history.

Spider-Man aboard an alien spacecraft in a scene from Avengers: Infinity War.

Image source: Disney.

The superhero collaboration had a massive showing in its first weekend in China, nabbing the second-biggest three-day box office ever with a $200 million debut, behind only The Fate of the Furious (in local currency). Avengers: Infinity War also set an all-time opening weekend record in China for IMAX scoring $20.3 million in ticket sales, which is notable, as this was the first Hollywood move to be shot entirely with IMAX cameras. It is also currently the fifth-biggest IMAX release in the company's history.


Worldwide Box Office

Domestic Ticket Sales


$2.79 billion

$761 million


$2.19 billion

$659 million

Star Wars: The Force Awakens

$2.07 billion

$937 million

Jurassic World

$1.67 billion

$652 million

Avengers: Infinity War

$1.61 billion

$548 million

Marvel's The Avengers

$1.52 billion

$623 million

Furious 7

$1.52 billion

$353 million

Avengers: Age of Ultron

$1.41 billion

$459 million

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows

$1.34 billion

$381 million

Black Panther

$1.34 billion

$696 million

Data by Box Office Mojo as of May 14. Chart by Author.

Avengers: Infinity War has flown up the all-time worldwide box office charts, generating $1.61 billion in global ticket sales, taking the No. 5 spot. It's also worth noting that three of the top 10 movies have "Avengers" in the title.

A bigger slice of the pie

While the Marvel contribution to Disney's movie business is front and center this year, other studios take turns in the limelight. Of the 34 films that have generated more than $1 billion in ticket sales, 18 of those originated from Lucasfilm, Marvel, Pixar, or Disney Studios. This includes four Star Wars movies, live-action remakes of Beauty and the Beast and Alice in Wonderland, Disney animation classics Frozen and Zootopia, six films bearing the Marvel moniker, and Pixar titles Toy Story 3 and Finding Dory.

The success of Disney's various film studios has become an increasingly important part of the company's overall business: 

Fiscal Year

Studio Entertainment Revenue

Percent of Total Revenue

Studio Entertainment Operating Income

Percent of Total Operating Income


$5.98 billion


$661 million



$8.38 billion


$2.36 billion


Data source: Disney's financial releases. Chart by Author.

The media networks segment has been treading water in recent years, the result of cord-cutting and declining subscriber growth at the company's flagship ESPN sports network. Look at the results of the company's media networks business, which is currently the big breadwinner, over the same time period, and the trend becomes even clearer: 

Fiscal Year

Media Networks Revenue

Percent of Total Revenue

Media Networks Operating Income

Percent of Total Operating Income


$20.36 billion


$6.82 billion



$23.51 billion


$6.90 billion


Data source: Disney's financial releases. Chart by Author.

As the contribution from studio entertainment grows, the former reliance of the company's media networks segment will continue to decline.

More movie magic

Each of Disney's studios will be releasing big titles in the coming months, which will likely add up to the biggest movie year yet for The House of Mouse. Ant-Man and the Wasp is still on deck for Marvel, and Solo: A Star Wars Story is Lucasfilm's contribution. Pixar will debut Incredibles 2, while Disney animation launches Ralph Breaks the Internet: Wreck-It Ralph 2. A couple of Disney live-action films also join the mix, with Christopher Robin and Mary Poppins Returns making appearances later this year.

Not all of these movies will be record-breaking smashes like Black Panther and Avengers -- but they don't have to be. The goal is for other segments to pick up the slack, which has helped Disney produce year-over-year growth in each of the last two quarters. With the stunning success of Avengers: Infinity War, that streak will likely continue in the current quarter.

Danny Vena owns shares of IMAX and Walt Disney and has the following options: long January 2019 $85 calls on Walt Disney. The Motley Fool owns shares of and recommends IMAX and Walt Disney. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.

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