Two years ago, there were serious concerns the box office would bounce back from the pandemic. In 2021, “Spider-Man: No Way Home” and the James Bond sequel “No Time to Die” offered a glimmer of hope that movies weren’t really a relic of the past. But movie theaters took until 2022 to regain their value in Hollywood.
And for the first time in a long time, it wasn’t just superheroes that survived at the box office. In fact, the top-grossing movie of the year was “Top Gun: Maverick,” a sequel to a movie that premiered nearly four decades ago, followed by Baz Luhrmann’s glitzy biopic “Elvis,” Universal’s star-studded romantic comedy “Ticket to Paradise” and A24’s indie ” Everything Everywhere All at Once” proved that daring swings have a real chance of resonating with audiences.
But with the movie’s earnest comeback comes the painful but inevitable flop. And this year, there were some doozies. The failure of Disney’s “Lightyear” and “Strange World” has cast some serious doubts about the future of family movies. Meanwhile, the well-reviewed “Bros” and “She Said” highlighted the challenges faced by mid-budget fare.
Overall, the domestic box office has collected $7.1 billion so far in 2022, according to ComScore. Those ticket sales are down 33% from the $10.6 billion generated in 2019, the last normal period at the box office. That’s partly because studios released fewer films over the year, but the decline can’t be attributed solely to Covid-related production delays. It may also indicate a change in consumer habits.
Before the end of the year, diversity Here’s a look at how the major studios have performed at the global box office over the past 12 months.
High: “Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness” ($955 million), “Thor: Love and Thunder” ($760 million) “Black Panther: Wakanda Forever” ($800 million and counting), “Avatar: The Way of Water” ($889 million dollars) and counting)
Below: “Death on the Nile” ($137 million), “Lightyears” ($226 million), “Amsterdam” ($31 million) and “Strange World” ($54 million)
Takeaways: What a difference a few years and a pandemic can make. In 2019, Disney did no wrong at the box office, smashing records with a seven billion dollar blockbuster. At this point in the year, none of its movies have hit that specific benchmark, though “Avatar: The Way of Water” will cross $1 billion any day now. To be fair, only two other movies managed to reach that milestone this year, but you’d think you’d at least have a fighting chance with the three Marvel movies on the calendar. Beyond winning pre-existing franchises, Disney has weathered a series of embarrassing big-budget misfires. It’s especially so since Pixar, once the gold-standard of kid-friendly fare, hasn’t struck a chord with consumers in quite some time. Of course, Disney’s misses still outnumber most studios’ biggest wins, but the Magic Kingdom spends a pretty penny making and marketing their movies, leaving the bar high for success. Superheroes will be OK in 2023, but when it comes to the rest of the slate, the studio’s new CEO Bob Iger certainly has his work cut out for him.
High: “Top Gun: Maverick” ($1.488 billion), “Smile” ($216 million), “Scream” ($140 million), “Jackass Forever” ($80 million), “The Lost City” ($190 million)
Below: “Babylon” ($5.3 million and counting)
Takeaways: Paramount’s improbable box office rebound is hard to understate. After writing off in the early Pandemic days, the studio enjoyed a near perfect stretch (the good times were slightly interrupted by “Babylon”) with back-to-back hits in every genre. It’s especially impressive that Paramount’s 2022 slate appealed to lovers of rom-coms, slapstick and classic all-American action, while “Jack’s Forever” and “The Lost City” delivered content to demographics that previously struggled to bring in audiences. And, of course, there’s the blockbuster success of “Top Gun: Maverick,” Tom Cruise’s decade-in-the-making sequel, which has rarely been a winner before. Yet it inevitably became popular, and not just with fans of the original. Anyone paying attention to pop culture felt the need to check out the hype, making the movie $1.488 billion worldwide and the highest-grossing release of the year. Tom Cruise, the box office god salutes you.
High: “Uncharted” ($401 million), “Bullet Train” ($293 million), “Where the Crawdads Sing” ($140 million), “The Woman King” ($92 million)
Below: “Morbius” ($167 million), “Father Stew” ($21 million), “Lyle, Lyle, Crocodile” ($87 million), “Devotion” ($17 million), “I Wanna Dance With Somebody” ($9.5 million)
Takeaways: Sony spent a good part of the year riding high with “Spider-Man: No Way Home,” which opened in December 2021 but continued to sell tickets through the summer. With 2022 offerings, the studio took some risks that paid off, such as the video game adaptation and franchise starter “Uncharted,” Viola Davis’ action epic “The Woman King” and the literary adaptation “Where the Crowds Sing.” Jared Leto’s comic book movie “Morbius” wasn’t a total disaster because it cost $75 million, but that’s hardly enough money to rival sequels and spinoffs of Disney’s MCU adventures. And “Lyle, Lyle, Crocodile” joined the list of underperforming family films of the year. The $90 million budgeted “Devotion,” which Sony distributed but did not finance, was the only painful flop. By keeping the budget in check, the studio helped prove that there was still room for originality at the box office.
High: “Jurassic World Dominion” ($1.001 billion), “Minions: The Rise of Gru” ($939 million), “The Black Phone” ($161 million), “Ticket to Paradise” ($165 million), “Halloween Ends” ($104 million) , “No” ($171 million)
Below: “The 355” ($27 million), “The Northman” ($69 million), “Bros” ($14 million), “Easter Sunday” ($13 million), “She Said” ($10 million), “The Fablemans” ($10.5 ) million)
Takeaways: Universal went for volume and variety in 2022, releasing far more movies of bigger budgets and genres than its big studio brethren. Yet the results were mixed. Universal’s flagship franchises, “Jurassic World” and “Minions,” delivered their projected blockbusters, becoming the biggest hits of the year and pushing the studio past $3 billion worldwide. And horror films like “The Black Phone” and “Nope” proved irresistible to audiences. But Universal’s efforts to expand into more arthouse or adult-oriented fare have failed to reap dividends. Oscar-bait films like “The Fablemans” and “She Said” bombed — and their commercial decline is troubling because, for the most part, critics thought they were actually good. Quality, it seems, is not enough during an epidemic that refuses to fade to black.
High: “The Batman” ($770 million), “Elvis” ($286 million), “Don’t Worry Darling” ($86 million), “DC’s League of Super-Pets” ($220 million)
Below: “Fantastic Beasts: The Secrets of Dumbledore” ($405 million), “Black Adam” ($389 million)
Takeaways: Living in the house that Brother Warner built was not a very happy time. With a new corporate leader at Warner Bros. Discovery, the studio has embarked on a wave of cost-cutting, layoffs and canceled projects that have made it a stressful place to work. So how did the studio perform amid all the upheaval? All right. “The Batman” delivered the goods, with director Matt Reeves finding a new take on the time-honored story of a masked avenger. “Elvis” became one of the rare movies aimed at hooking adults at the box office, while “Don’t Worry Darling” unleashed a wave of must-see off-screen drama while giving us the most memes of 2022. -worthy moments (Miss Flow and Spitgate, we’re looking at you). But elsewhere, things didn’t go according to plan as two franchise-aspirants fell out. “Fantastic Beasts” seems to have lost its magic touch, while “Black Adam” was a waste of time and money that DC’s new bosses chose to move away from Dwayne Johnson’s anti-hero.