Disney’s box office domination has started early in 2023. Six weeks into the new year, the studio has already cleared $1 billion globally, with ticket sales at $1.283 billion to date. It can take other major studios up to 12 months to hit that benchmark.
Thanks to the combined turnout for “Avatar: The Way of Water,” Marvel’s “Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania,” and the international re-release of “Titanic,” Disney’s 2023 box office tally stands at $383 domestically and $900 million internationally.
James Cameron’s enduring “Avatar” sequel is the main reason that Disney has surpassed $1 billion faster than its rivals. Over the weekend, “The Way of Water” reached a staggering $2.2433 billion worldwide, enough to overtake “Titanic” ($2.2428 billion) as the third-highest grossing movie of all time. Also during the President’s Day holiday frame, the third “Ant-Man” adventure opened across the globe, performing above expectations with $225 million worldwide.
It’s likely the first of many billions for Disney in 2023. Other blockbuster-hopefuls on the calendar include “Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3” (May 5), “The Little Mermaid” remake (May 26), Pixar’s “Elemental” (June 16), Harrison Ford’s return in “Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny” (June 30) and “The Marvels” (Nov. 10), among others.
But overall, the box office has yet to fully rebound from the pandemic. Before COVID, Disney broke records by generating $7 billion in 2016 and again in 2018. Then in 2019, it obliterated its own benchmark with $11.12 billion, by far the biggest collective result in history by a single studio. In that year, Disney had seven movies gross at least $1 billion.
By comparison, Disney ended 2022 with $4.9 billion at the global box office, including $2 billion domestically and $2.9 billion internationally. “Avatar: The Way of Water” has been Disney’s only pandemic-era release to power to the billion-dollar mark.
“Disney was coming off such a historic run of box office years that even without the pandemic or streaming-intense strategies, it would have been a challenge to duplicate” says Shawn Robbins, the chief analyst at BoxOfficePro. “Nevertheless, this is an encouraging start to 2023. It will still take some time, but this may be the beginning of an important turnaround for the biggest studio in the world.”