It's been harder than ever to get Americans to go to the movies this year. Entering this weekend, 2019 domestic box-office receipts were down about 7% compared with the same period in 2018.
In spite of this weak environment, Walt Disney (NYSE: DIS) has managed to keep churning out hit after hit. The House of Mouse's success has continued this month, with The Lion King posting a huge box office haul over its first several days in theaters.
Disney was already off to a terrific start
Disney absolutely dominated the domestic box office in the first half of 2019 -- without even counting the recently acquired Fox studio. (It was almost equally dominant abroad.) At the end of June, Disney had the four top-grossing movies of the year domestically: Avengers: Endgame, Captain Marvel, Aladdin, and Toy Story 4 -- the last of which had only been in theaters for 10 days at that point.
Thanks to the massive success of these four movies -- offset by just one flop, a live-action remake of Dumbo -- Disney captured more than a third of the domestic box office in the first half of 2019. That was more than double the share of its closest rival.
Disney films took the top four spots domestically for the first half of 2019. Image source: Disney.
Several of the movies that Disney released in the first half of the year have continued to perform well in July. Toy Story 4, which had grossed $238.7 million at the domestic box office as of June 30, had reached $383.8 million by last Wednesday. It is tracking solidly ahead of Toy Story 3, which had a final domestic gross of $415 million. Meanwhile, Aladdin has increased its domestic haul from $306.6 million at the end of June to $342.5 million as of Wednesday. The longevity of these two films has Aladdin set to break $1 billion at the global box office this weekend, with Toy Story 4 reaching that milestone soon thereafter.
Avengers: Endgame has kept building on its massive box office success, too, thanks in part to a recent rerelease with some bonus content. It had already brought in $841.9 million at the domestic box office by the end of June, and it has since increased that total to $855.4 million as of Wednesday. That helped it set a new global box office record last weekend (taking the title from Avatar), with $2.79 billion and counting.
The hit parade continues
Despite the continuing success of these other films, The Lion King has been the main driver of Disney's box office success this month. While this photorealistic adaptation of the classic Disney animation received decidedly mixed reviews from critics, fans have come out in droves.
The Lion King had an opening-weekend domestic haul of $191.8 million. That was easily the second-best opening weekend of 2019, trailing only Avengers: Endgame. It was also enough to put the film in the No. 6 spot domestically by the end of the weekend. (Of course, four of the movies it trails were also put out by the House of Mouse.)
Furthermore, opening-weekend audiences enjoyed the film, giving it a strong rating. That bodes well for The Lion King to continue performing well. As of Wednesday, it had already reached $260.3 million at the domestic box office. It is also off to a strong start abroad, grossing $453.4 million in foreign markets so far.
The exception that proves the rule
The only non-Disney movie in the top five this year -- either in the domestic market or globally -- is Spider-Man: Far From Home. As of Wednesday, the film had grossed $329.8 million at the domestic box office. It will have easily surpassed $1 billion globally by the end of this weekend.
If anything, this is the exception to Disney's box office dominance that proves the rule. After all, the latest Spider-Man film is part of the broader Marvel Cinematic Universe that has powered much of Disney's recent box office success.
2019 will be a record-setting year
Last year, Disney brought in a record $3.1 billion at the domestic box office, controlling more than a quarter of the total take for the second time in three years. By the end of last weekend, Disney had already reached $2.4 billion in domestic box office receipts. Its year-to-date share of the domestic box office is an incredible 37%: roughly equal to the next three studios combined.
That market share will recede a bit over the next two months, as Disney's next release (excluding Fox) is planned for mid-October. Still, Disney's domestic box office haul will continue to grow, driven primarily by The Lion King, which is on track to surge past $500 million -- and possibly even $600 million -- in the coming months.
The Lion King is still early in its theatrical run. Image source: Disney.
By the end of September, Disney could be close to $3 billion at the domestic box office, with Avengers: Endgame, The Lion King, Toy Story 4, and Captain Marvel as the top four films of the year. (Spider-Man: Far From Home is set to surpass Aladdin within the next few days.) Globally, $8 billion is within reach by then for Disney.
Three more potential blockbusters will hit theaters between October and December. Sequels to Maleficent and Frozen will arrive in October and November, respectively. The originals grossed a combined $642 million domestically. The House of Mouse will close out the year with the final Star Wars film of the current trilogy, which is sure to be a massive hit.
As a result, Disney is likely to surpass $4 billion at the domestic box office in 2019. Globally, $11 billion or even $12 billion could be within range. The fact that Disney is putting up numbers like this while all of its rivals are struggling makes its accomplishment all the more impressive.
Adam Levine-Weinberg has no position in any of the stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool owns shares of and recommends Walt Disney and is long January 2021 $60 calls on Walt Disney and short October 2019 $125 calls on Walt Disney. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.
This article was originally published on Fool.com