5 Biggest Battles of 2019
By George Rose
January 23, 2019
I’m not sure why 2018 ended on such an underwhelming note but the trend is continuing well into 2019. The six-film collection of 2018’s Aquaman, Mary Poppins Returns, Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse, Bumblebee, The Mule and Second Act couldn’t come close to the 2017 Star Wars: The Last Jedi, Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle and Greatest Showman trifecta. You may find yourself hoping the new year magic helps turns things around but it isn’t. There’s nothing like a fresh start to give you false hope, am I right? Well, turns out, 2019 is backloaded. January leaves us with nothing but the critical disappointment of Glass and mid-level successes like The Upside and Escape Room. With the weekend of January 25-27 bringing us more garbage in the form of The King Who Would Be King and Serenity, it leaves me wishing we could look ahead instead of focusing on the now.
Then I remember, I write my own weekly article and can do whatever I want. Screw the weekend of January 25th. BOP readers deserve better than this mess and it won’t be long before we get it. January 2019 does not properly represent the year ahead as there are no less than five of the most epic box office battles to come. Sometimes, if you focus on the now you could prematurely put yourself in a place of depression. The big stories are only a few weeks and months away, and the light at the end of the tunnel is closer than you think. Rather than waste this week with prepping for films you don’t care about and will likely skip when they’re free-ish on Netflix, we will use this time to get a head start on what will most likely be a record-breaking year at the movies. Strap on your boxing gloves and place your bets because we have some real heavyweight hitters going head-to-head in 2019.
#5) BATTLE OF THE HORROR MOVIE HITS: US vs IT: CHAPTER 2
WHY US COULD WIN: This is the second film from director Jordan Peele, the man behind the Oscar winning film Get Out that earned $176 million and proved horror movies can be award-worthy. Interest is high in his directorial follow up and early trailers show what appears to be another well-made, thought-provoking, mind-fk of a movie. Will more awards follow?
WHY IT: CHAPTER 2 COULD WIN: The first IT became the biggest horror movie of all time with $327 million and finally gave us a Stephen King film adaptation worth talking about. Chapter 2 is not only the sequel to Chapter 1, but also the concluding chapter of the two-part story. If the sequel can retain most of the 85% positive reviews of the first film, there’s a chance another $300+ million total is in store for the most anticipated horror movie follow-up of all time.
WHO WILL WIN: IT: Chapter 2 will definitely win in total earnings but that’s only part of the story. If we’re talking about reviews, I’m assuming Jordan Peele is no one-hit-wonder and will prove to be a true directorial threat. As a sequel, IT: Chapter 2 will likely fall in both the critical and profitable departments but will still become the second biggest horror movie ever. From a budget standpoint, we know Us will cost less than It: Chapter 2 and that their “budget vs profit ratios” could be close. Regardless, IT: Chapter 2 will win the numbers and Us will take the critical win, but I have a feeling we will be saying great things about both by years end.
#4) BATTLE OF THE MCU BOOKENDS: CAPTAIN MARVEL vs SPIDER-MAN: FAR FROM HOME
WHY CAPTAIN MARVEL COULD WIN: She is the First Lady of Marvel Superheroes. Not only is Captain Marvel the first female to get a solo feature in the MCU (Marvel Cinematic Universe) but she also has the strongest powers of any Marvel hero to date. This is the last MCU movie before Avengers 4 so fans will need to know what happens to be fully informed for Endgame. As long as reviews continue the Marvel trend of no less than “above average”, this will crush the Spring competition and help provide ample marketing before the MCU Endgames begin.
WHY SPIDER-MAN: FAR FROM HOME COULD WIN: This feels less like the first MCU movie of Phase 4 and more like the Ant-Man movies in that they are “one last solo-feature tagged onto the end of a Phase before the next actually starts.” This feels true because it will be the first film that occurs after Endgame and will show us the most direct reaction to the events at the end of that film. Also, there are no set plans for the MCU after Far From Home. It’s all basically up in the air with acting contracts up and the Fox merger bringing the X-Men into the fold. The real catch here is: how relevant is the world post Endgame? The MCU will have wrapped up three phases and fans could consider the story completely told, especially if a reversal of time in Endgame negates everything Infinity War set up, which is exactly what an un-dusted Spidey and Nick Fury suggests. Far From Home will help dictate where the MCU goes forward both story-wise (and profit-wise) and will hope to ride the (potential) massive wave of Endgame goodwill into the next Phase of the mostly-unknown MCU future.
WHO WILL WIN: I think Captain Marvel, as interest in the MCU’s first heroine and the final film leading up to Endgame put it in prime position to be the dominating force of Spring 2019. Spider-Man has an advantage in that MCU sequels tend to earn more than the first solo-feature, but Summer 2019 is more crowded than Spring which also hurts Sony’s bastard MCU franchise. With Disney clearly on the side of Captain Marvel, she has a marketing strength behind her that Spider-Man could only dream of. The winner seems obvious to me but, then again, Wonder Woman’s $413 million total might not be the low-end for Marvel’s counterpart. It might be that interest in a woman hero has already peaked with that critical-darling and $413 million is the ceiling for what Captain Marvel can expect. Still, gun to my head to make a decision, I say Disney’s Captain Marvel beats Sony’s Spider-Man but it will be close.
#3) BATTLE OF THE MEGA ANIMATED SEQUELS: TOY STORY 4 vs FROZEN 2
WHY TOY STORY 4 COULD WIN: Pixar is the biggest animation studio around. Toy Story is their first child and is arguably their biggest franchise. The first movie made $192 million, the second made $246 million and the third made $415 million. Will the third continue the trend? By adding romantic-comedy elements, we could see revitalized interest in these toys.
WHY FROZEN 2 COULD WIN: Since Disney owns Pixar, they are technically the biggest animation studio. Pixar helped bring them from the era of 2D animated musicals into the era of computer animation, but it wasn’t until 2010’s Tangled that Disney proved they can branch away without Pixar to make a CGI animated hit. The biggest earner of Disney’s modern cartoon CGI stories is Frozen, 2013’s $401 million blockbuster that is still a huge source of merchandising income for the Mouse House. Although most animated sequels don’t perform as well as the first, Disney is the one studio that bucks that trend and make more with their sequels, even if it isn’t by a huge margin (see: Wreck-It Ralph 2).
WHO WILL WIN: Well, as the modern era of “multi-film, universe-building franchises make more sense than simpler, compact trilogies” has shown us, the fourth film in a franchise is where the diminishing returns rapidly increases. Examples include Pirates of the Caribbean 4, Transformers 4 and Shrek 4, although extensions like Harry Potter’s Fantastic Beast and Lord of the Ring’s The Hobbit have shown that even spin-offs don’t perform as well. That means there’s no way Toy Story 4 makes more than 3’s $415 million. Then again, Frozen 2 likely won’t top the first’s $401 million if the “animated sequels seldom make more money than the first” theory holds true. Example for the theory: Madagascar 2, Kung Fu Panda 2, Rio 2, How to Train Your Dragon 2, and Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs 2. Then again, those weren’t Disney. Examples against the theory: Disney and/or Pixar’s Toy Story 2, Incredibles 2, Finding Dory, and Wreck-It Ralph 2, although only one of those didn’t have Pixar’s help. If the power of the Disney animated sequel prevails and the floundering fourth franchise film theory holds true, then Toy Story 4’s ceiling is $415 million and Frozen 2’s floor is $401 million. The evidence here says Frozen 2 wins but it will come down to the reviews. As Disney and/or Pixar reviews tend to be great across the board, I’m placing my bet on Frozen 2.
#2) BATTLE OF THE CLASSIC DISNEY STORIES RETOLD: ALADDIN vs LION KING vs DUMBO
WHY ALADDIN COULD WIN: As the only one of the three features to headline a Disney Princess, I imagine this will be the one most female fans will be interested in. Beauty and the Beast showed us the potential for a $500+ million gross with a Princess front-and-center, and Will Smith as the iconic genie is sure to raise interest and profits higher than the average remake. Let’s also not forget that the animated Aladdin earned more than Beauty and the Beast, although only the latter earned a Best Picture nomination at the Oscars.
WHY LION KING COULD WIN: As The Jungle Book’s $364 million showed us, there is massive interest in Disney animals getting a live-action-ish update if told and directed well with incredible CGI. There’s no reason to believe Lion King, Disney’s biggest animated hit of the 1990’s, will earn less than the Jungle Book. Since the animated Lion King earned almost $200 million more than the animated Beauty and the Beast and +$100 million more than Aladdin, there’s also no reason to believe it earns less than that $500 million live-action remake benchmark. As the King of Disney’s animation released at the end of the last millennium, most bets are on this Lion to tear apart the 2019 remake competition.
WHY DUMBO WON’T WIN: There’s just no way it wins, plain and simple. Jungle Book’s $364 million seems like the animal-counterpart ceiling, while even Tim Burton’s other Disney update - Alice in Wonderland with $334 million - seems out of reach. It’s smart to release Dumbo as the first of the remakes for the year so it doesn’t suffer from fandom fatigue, but the more ancient Disney stories retold like Mary Poppins Returns (est $175 million), Cinderella ($201 million) and Maleficent ($241 million) might be more reasonable comps for this clumsy flying elephant.
WHO WILL WIN: Disney released Dumbo in 1941 which makes numbers hard to predict for that release. However, in the 1990’s Disney had Beauty and the Beast ($146 million), Aladdin ($217 million) and Lion King ($313 million). Those are numbers we can work with. I imagine the remakes could follow a similar pattern, though I don’t imagine an exact replica of that model will occur (ie. Aladdin won’t make $750 million and Lion King won’t earn $1 billion stateside, compared to the new Beauty’s $500 million). Beauty did have Emma Watson as Belle, so it may have gotten an A-list boost, but Aladdin does have Will Smith as a genie so maybe the street rat can still take down the Beast. Lion King doesn’t have any A-list faces so maybe it takes a hit since Jungle Book already showed us all we need to see from a conversion of animation to CGI for their singing creatures. Then again, Black Panther showed us how an all-black cast can dominate against standard MCU fare, so Lion King will surely benefit from the presence of Beyoncé, Donald Glover and the return of the classic James Earl Jones. With that in mind, I imagine the remake rankings will remain similar to their animated counterparts and the Lions will be King of the updated classics by Summer’s end.
#1) BATTLE OF THE CONCLUDING CHAPTERS OF RECORD-BREAKING, MULTI DECADE-SPANNING, UNIVERSE-BUILDING, INDUSTRY-CHANGING, LIFE-DEFINING, THREE-PART FRANCHISE STORIES: AVENGERS: ENDGAME vs STAR WARS: EPISODE 9
WHY THIS IS THE BIGGEST BATTLE OF OUR LIFETIME, LET ALONE 2019: The two biggest franchises in history come to their conclusions this year. Bigger than your average trilogy and more resilient than your average extended franchise (like Transformers, Pirates of the Caribbean, Shrek, Spider-Man, Harry Potter, Lord of the Rings, etc), these two behemoths have proven that if you pre-plan your story and bulk it into three interconnected groups of films, you can create a mega-trilogy that can steamroll the competition. Many laughed when George Lucas said he was planning three trilogies of Skywalker adventures and many snickered when they assumed superhero fatigue would take down the Three Phases of the MCU. How could a normal moviegoer have the attention span or lasting interest in any subject matter to help it become a cinematic universe worth exploring for decades? No franchise has yet to remain relevant after ten films except the James Bond movies, but even they required several casting changes to keep the brand alive and only a handful of those 20+ films are even associated with one another. After 10 films and over 40 years, Star Wars is wrapping up the Skywalker trilogy trifecta. After 10 years and over 20 films, the MCU will have their heroes finally defeat the threat of Thanos. Both franchises have had countless films become the biggest hit of their respective years and both have one of the only four films to top $2 billion globally with those worldwide totals having a mere $20 million difference. For Disney to release each concluding chapter in the same year means (and their two biggest animated remakes) they are attempting to create a “biggest year for a studio ever” that could last for decades to come. History is about to be made and both franchises are about to end in monumental fashion.
WHY AVENGERS: ENDGAME COULD WIN: There are very few comps for two-part films that end a franchise. We have The Hunger Games, but Book 3 Part 2 ended on a series low; Harry Potter, and Book 7 Part 2 ended on a series high; and Twilight, with Book 4 Part 2 making a tiny bit more than Part 1. My gut is telling me that it lands somewhere in the middle of those franchises. Endgame will likely earn about the same as Infinity War’s $678 million domestic (probably just inching past Black Panther’s $700 million to reclaim the MCU throne) and probably just under the crazy $2 billion global milestone Infinity crossed. Everyone who saw Infinity War will want to know how the fight with Thanos wraps up and I imagine equally positive reviews will keep all numbers pretty flat. Infinity War was 85% positive. If Endgame lands with 80-90% positive reviews than similar numbers are in play. If we get 90-100%, then Avatar’s $760 million could get challenged and the $2 billion barrier will surely crumble. Anything less than 80% positive reviews will be seen as a travesty and will have the MCU ending with a fanboy outcry, which CAN NOT HAPPEN. Will all this be enough to take down Star Wars?
WHY STAR WARS: EPISODE 9 COULD WIN: Star Wars trilogies seems to have a habit where the first one earns the most, the second earns the least and the third lands just under the average. For example, Star Wars Episodes 4/5/6 earned $307/209/253 in 1977/1980/1983, then Episodes 1/2/3 earned $431/311/380 million in 1999/2002/2005, and more recently Episodes 7/8 earned $937/620 million in 2015/2017. The percent drop from first entry to first sequel is -32% for Episode 5, -28% for Episode 2 and -34% for Episode 8. All are pretty similar. The trilogy ending Episode 6 then went +21% while Episode 3 climbed +22% which is, again, almost identical. Should Episode 9 rise +20%, we’re looking at just under $750 million, with Disney likely working their magic to have it inch past the $760 million Avatar earned to be #2 on the list of All-Time Unadjusted Earners behind only Episode 7. If global acts the same way where the first/second/third entry goes high/low/middle, then Episode 9’s global take will be around $1.7 billion. Some say history repeats itself and the third of Star Wars’ trilogy cappers is likely to prove that old adage.
WHO WILL WIN: Star Wars will win the domestic galaxy while Avengers will win the global universe. The powers of my gut instincts, historical data and the numbers at hand say Endgame earns about $715 million domestic and $1.9 billion worldwide, while Episode 9 earns $775 million domestic and $1.7 billion worldwide. While each franchise will win a battle, it’s Disney that wins the war with a record breaking year that holds no less than four of the most major, newsworthy stories that our lifetime may not come across again. After they shocked the world in 2018 with three $600+ million hits (Black Panther, Avengers 3 and Incredibles 2), they plan to do it again in 2019 with a great chance at three $700+ million hits (Avengers 4, Lion King and Episode 9) and even a slight chance at three $750+ million monsters if reviews are great across the board. The battles begin in just a few weeks so start paying attention, because it will take a decade of inflation for this historic moment to repeat itself.