Big hitters: Which film will make the most money in 2019?

Avengers: Endgame, Star Wars: Episode IX, Frozen 2, The Lion King look like the big hitters this year

Main attractions: Avengers: Endgame (centre), along with Fast & Furious presents: Hobbs & Shaw, The Lion King, Spider-Man: Far From Home, and The Secret Life of Pets 2

Main attractions: Avengers: Endgame (centre), along with Fast & Furious presents: Hobbs & Shaw, The Lion King, Spider-Man: Far From Home, and The Secret Life of Pets 2

 

In one sense, cinema has never been healthier. Thanks in part to growth in the Asian market, the worldwide box office hit a record-breaking $41 billion in 2018. At time of writing, four 2018 films, each with takings over $1 billion, have registered in the all-time top 20 (before any adjustment for inflation). Break out the top hats and the monocles. Let’s roll around in piles of gold pieces like Scrooge McDuck on his birthday.

And yet. Only two films in the current 2018 top 10 are not part of an existing franchise. Sony’s Venom, not officially a planet in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, gets by on a technicality. The impressively and unexpectedly robust Bohemian Rhapsody is the one release to emerge unsupported by any predecessors. Most of the money is still coming from stuff audiences already know they like.

There is no reason to believe this will change in 2019. Indeed, you will struggle to find any standalone release with a plausible chance of breaking the top 10. Given the success of Bohemian Rhapsody, Rocketman, starring Taron Egerton as Elton John, must have a whisper, but only a brave fellow would stake his house on it beating the behemoths below. Then there’s Pokémon Detective Pikachu? Not much crossover appeal perhaps. We are thus pessimistically filling the 10 entirely with sequels, reboots and spin-offs. 

The other issue worth pondering is how many of the top films will be Walt Disney releases. That company now handles the Star Wars empire, the Marvel cinematic universe and the Pixar constellation alongside its own magic kingdom. Think on this. If Fast & Furious Presents: Hobbs & Shaw fails (doubtful) and we consider Spider-Man: Far From Home a Disney collaboration (Sony handles Spider-Man on the ground, so that’s a bit of a stretch) then the mouse house could plausibly take eight or nine places in the top 10. When Wonder Woman 2 and Bond 25 were delayed into 2020 all sorts of possibilities opened up. 

Anyway, here are our guesses on the ranked lifetime takings for films released in 2019.

Robert Downey Jr in Avengers: Endgame
Robert Downey Jr in Avengers: Endgame

1. Avengers: Endgame ($2.2bn)
There can be only one winner. The Marvel films do well everywhere and the Avengers episodes do the best of all. We’re nudging the total up just a little on Avengers: Infinity Wars’ $2.05 billion as there are only so many worlds left to conquer. A Disney release.

2. Star Wars: Episode IX ($1.3bn)
Or not. As the Star Wars universe expands, it has become increasingly clear that the films play far better in Anglophone territories than elsewhere. The underperformance in China is particularly notable. So JJ Abrams’s space opera could slip a bit lower than this. A Disney release.

3. Frozen 2 ($1.2bn)
It will do well merely by existing. If the film is good then, driven by word of mouth, there is scarcely any limit to how much it could take. Do not forget that Frozen is still the highest grossing animated feature of all time. A Disney release.

4. The Lion King ($1.1bn)
There are a lot of these pseudo-live action remakes of Disney animations about, but, to be fair, most of them have been unnecessarily enjoyable. The trailer suggests that the boffins are still delivering. Will certainly get noticed. A Disney release.

5. Toy Story 4 ($950m)
If the film is up to the standards of the first three then Pixar’s latest will shovel up astronomical amounts of dosh in the US and respectable piles elsewhere on the globe. A Disney release.
 

Idris Elba in Fast & Furious presents: Hobbs & Shaw
Idris Elba in Fast & Furious presents: Hobbs & Shaw

6. Fast & Furious Presents: Hobbs & Shaw ($850m)
Tricky one this. If this were a straightforward sequel then we would not pause before placing it in the top three. The Fast & Furious films are enormous – that’s ENORMOUS – in non-Anglophone territories. But its status as a spin-off may hold it back. Dwayne Johnson and Jason Statham play the eponymous petrol heads. Not a Disney release, amazingly. It’s from the good people at Universal.

7. Captain Marvel ($840m)
This has a lot going for it. Films with female protagonists score big – just look at Wonder Woman – and Brie Larson is agreeable casting for Marvel’s first distaff lead. Many will savour the 1990s nostalgia. But it may struggle outside the US. A Disney release.
 

Zendaya and Tom Holland in Spider-Man: Far From Home
Zendaya and Tom Holland in Spider-Man: Far From Home

8. Spider-Man: Far From Home ($820m)
Spider-Man: Homecoming was an absolute delight and – as the unexpected success of Venom has shown – it’s a bad idea to bet against anything connected to the web-spinner. But there are surely only so many superhero films we can take. A Sony release (but Disney owns the governing Marvel Cinematic Universe).

9. Jumanji 3 ($810m)
You may laugh. You will almost certainly laugh a lot more than you will when watching the film. But the last episode, to everyone’s astonishment, came within a hair’s breadth of $1 billion at the worldwide box office. We’re downgrading a little from that freak result, but we’re not knocking it out of the top 10. A Sony release.

10. The Secret Life of Pets 2 ($800m)
Now we’re in Tarot card territory. Any one of the films listed below could creep into the top 10, but Secret Life of Pets ate the box office alive in 2016. It has a tasty early June release date that will allow it to play throughout the school holidays. A Universal release.

The next 10...

  • Pokémon Detective Pikachu
  • Dumbo
  • How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World
  • Aladdin
  • It: Chapter Two
  • Godzilla: King of the Monsters
  • Shazam!
  • Joker
  • Men in Black International
  • Rocketman
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