2022 Box Office Preview: Disney

Image courtesy of Walt Disney Studios

2022 Preview 

Starting with early May’s Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness, Disney will release a new Marvel title in theaters every quarter through the end of year. The title is hoping for a box office boost following its protagonist’s prominent role in Sony’s Spider-Man: No Way Home. The year’s second Marvel title, Thor: Love and Thunder, is scheduled to open during a busy blockbuster period in July. Black Panther: Wakanda Forever will be the second of four superhero titles to hit theaters in Q4 and should pack theaters in North America through the Thanksgiving holiday.

The big question closing out the year will come with James Cameron’s Avatar 2, currently scheduled to open on December 21. The film is much less of a guaranteed hit after being in development for over a decade. The original Avatar untapped the potential of digital cinema projection and launched digital 3D as a premium experience for theaters around the world. Digital 3D occupies a fraction of the box office it once had during its height in the 2010s, but other premium cinema formats have continued to grow and expand their footprint worldwide. Avatar 2’s success could very well come down to how the film markets the moviegoing experience at Premium Large Format (PLF) auditoriums, which have found increased prominence during the pandemic.

2021 Recap

Disney curtailed its 2021 potential at the box office by prioritizing the growth of its streaming service, Disney+, over theatrical exhibition. Pixar title Luca skipped a theatrical release entirely to instead become the latest in an anonymous string of straight-to-video movies, while Peter Jackson’s documentary The Beatles: Get Back had its theatrical runtime re-edited to become a multi-episode documentary series. A number of prominent theatrical titles received day-and-date Premium Video on Demand (PVOD) releases, with only one of them—Marvel’s Black Widow—ranking among the year’s ten highest-grossing films.

The studio’s focus returned to theatrical exclusivity in Q3. Disney’s biggest hit of 2021 came with Marvel’s Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings, the first Marvel title to be released exclusively to theaters during the pandemic. Though the film’s $75 million opening weekend came in below Black Widow’s ($80M). Its theatrical run exceeded Black Widow’s by more than $40 million, making it Disney’s only title of 2021 to cross $200 million at the domestic box office. 

Theatrical exclusivity wasn’t a magic formula for the studio’s other Q4 titles. Its 20th Century Studios division, a remnant of the studio’s acquisition of 20th Century Fox, was only able to claim one hit from its slate (Free Guy) in a year marked by several high-profile letdowns at the box office. Adult-skewing titles like The Last Duel and West Side Story garnered strong reviews but were unable to connect with moviegoers. 

On the specialty side, Searchlight Pictures kicked off the year with the Academy Award-winning release of Chloé Zhao’s Nomadland. The specialty market came to life with the opening of theaters in New York and Los Angeles in the Spring, leading to an increase of titles in the second half of the year. Among them, Wes Anderson’s The French Dispatch proved to be the year’s top specialty performer with a $16 million haul as of the year’s end.

2022 Theatrical Slate

Death on the Nile (20th Century Studios) | February 11

Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness (Marvel) | May 6

Bob’s Burgers (20th Century Studios) | May 27

Lightyear (Pixar) | June 17

Thor: Love and Thunder (Marvel) | July 8

Black Panther: Wakanda Forever (Marvel) | November 11

Strange World | November 23

Avatar 2 (20th Century Studios) | December 21

2021 Domestic Box Office Performance

Domestic Box Office Total: $1.17 Billion (First Place)

Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings
September 3 | $224.5M Domestic 

Black Widow
July 9 | $183.7M Domestic 

November 5| $164.4M Domestic 

Free Guy
August 13 | $121.6M Domestic 

Jungle Cruise
August 30 | $117M Domestic

November 24 | $90.6M Domestic

May 28 | $86.1M Domestic

Raya and the Last Dragon
March 5 | $54.7M Domestic

West Side Story
December 10 | $28.2M Domestic

Ron’s Gone Wrong
October 22 | $23M Domestic

The King’s Man
December 22 | $16.3M Domestic 

The French Dispatch
October 22 | $15.9M Domestic

The Last Duel
October 15 | $10.8M Domestic

October 29 | $10.6M Domestic

The Night House
August 20 | $7.1M Domestic

Nightmare Alley
December 17 | $6.8M Domestic

February 11 | $3.7M Domestic (*Total Theatrical Run)

The Eyes of Tammy Faye
September 17 | $2.4M Domestic 

Summer of Soul
June 25 | $2.3M Domestic

Image courtesy of Walt Disney Studios