With the help of The Avengers, Star Wars, and a slew of Pixar and Disney studios hits, Disney (NYSE:DIS) has become a filmmaking powerhouse in recent years. In 2019 alone, the House of Mouse is responsible for five of the top six grossing movies, with each one generating more than $1 billion in box office receipts.
Even without the recent addition of 20th Century Fox, Disney topped a threshold this weekend that's been breached just twice before and is on track to set a new all-time record for total box office by a single studio.
Freezing out the competition
Disney had high hopes for Frozen 2 after some of its recent high-profile releases did live up to expectations, and the film didn't disappoint. The movie snowballed to an estimated $130 million in domestic ticket sales in the opening weekend alone, and more than $350 million around the globe -- making it the biggest worldwide animated launch of all time. The movie also set a record at IMAX theaters, contributing more than $18 million to its global ticket sales -- again the best-ever performance for an animated film.
Frozen 2 thawed Disney's recent cold spell. A live-action remake of the animated classic Dumbo failed to connect with moviegoers, generating a paltry (in Disney terms) $353 million in ticket sales. Maleficent: Mistress of Evil -- a sequel to the highly successful live-action Maleficent -- also disappointed, with about $472 million in box office receipts so far.
A record-setting year
The opening weekend performance of Frozen 2 has propelled Disney past $3 billion in overall domestic box office, only the third time in history that any studio has eclipsed that watermark -- and Disney also accounts for both of the previous two instances. The House of Mouse is also on track to beat its previous record of $3.09 billion, and that doesn't count any contribution from the studios recently acquired in the Fox acquisition.
Current estimates suggest the company should end up the year with more than $3.5 billion in domestic box office, and more than $11 billion worldwide, with a final push provided by both Frozen 2 and Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker -- the final installment in a franchise more than 40 years in the making.
A large part of Disney's blockbuster year was the runaway success of Avengers: Endgame. The movie began its run with a record-setting weekend in April, eventually becoming the biggest grossing film of all time, with more than $2.79 billion in ticket sales.
Why it matters to Disney investors
Disney's success at the multiplex is about more than just bragging rights.
First, for the fiscal year ended Sept. 28, revenue from the company's studio entertainment segment grew 11% year over year, adding more than $1 billion to last year's take. This helped take up the slack in a year when the parks, experiences, and products segment struggled, growing just 6%.
Second, and perhaps more importantly, the success of these films helps feed the results in every other segment fueled by consumer discretionary income. It helps drive families to Disney theme parks, hotels, resorts, and cruise ships, while also helping generate demand for all manner of Disney products, from plush toys to video games, and from action figures to playsets.
Also, as demonstrated by the recent successful launch of Disney+, it adds to the company's ever-growing treasure trove of intellectual property that Disney will be able to monetize for decades to come.