Long Range Tracking: Strong Q4 Pacing to Send 2018 Domestic Box Office Beyond $11.6 Billion for New Annual Record

With no new wide releases joining our tracking calendar this weekend, we’ve decided to take a look at where the overall market is shaping up to finish by year’s end — and it’s looking like a historic finish.

Based on our tracking models for all major studio films opening between now and and December 31, Boxoffice is projecting 2018 will set a new all-time domestic record gross north of $11.6 billion. That baseline figure would topple 2016’s standing record of $11.38 billion by 2 percent, while also blowing past 2017’s $11.07 billion by nearly 5 percent.

Some models even project a figure over $11.7 billion is well within reach.

How Will We Get There?

2018’s box office has maintained a record pace on a consistent basis throughout most of the year, standing at more than $8.8 billion in revenue through the end of the third quarter* on September 28. We’re currently forecasting the year’s fourth quarter to account for an additional $2.85+ billion in box office sales, representing the period beginning September 29 and ending December 31.

That projection is driven by one of the strongest October markets in years thanks to the presence of VenomA Star Is Born, and the upcoming Halloween, followed by a packed November slate that could easily see three films cross $200 million individually: The GrinchFantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald, and Ralph Breaks the Internet.

November’s Bohemian RhapsodyCreed 2, and Widows should provide further padding as likely mid-range successes, alongside the varying potential of The Nutcracker and the Four Realms, The Girl In the Spider’s Web, Overlord, and Green Book.

If there’s anything resembling a weak spot during the remainder of the year, it may be December — although “weak” is a relative term given how spoiled the industry and audiences have been with massive Star Wars films opening during the Christmas corridor in each of the last three years.

That juggernaut franchise is sitting out this holiday season, but Disney still has an ace up its sleeve with Mary Poppins Returns — a film for which we’ll share early tracking reports in a few weeks, but one that’s already trending like a huge box office hit in the making thanks to stellar social media buzz and very positive trailer reactions.

December will also bring AquamanBumblebee, and Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse — three franchise films that could combine for more than $300 million domestically going into early 2019. Filling out what should still be a solid slate of Christmastime releases will be award season candidates like Clint Eastwood’s The Mule and Adam McKay’s Vice, alongside wild card performers like Mortal EnginesSecond Act, and Holmes & Watson.

Essentially, if October and November continue living up to bullish expectations, December won’t need to perform anywhere near the level of last year’s $1.48 billion monthly take in order for 2018 to exceed $11.6 billion.

How High Could 2018 Go?

Current models suggest $11.6 billion may even be slightly conservative as some scenarios position the year finishing between $11.7 billion and $11.8 billion. For that to happen, a great deal would hinge on the ability of November and (especially) December’s releases to meet optimistic expectations and/or over-perform — but a fourth quarter haul north of $3 billion is very possible given the incredible runway October and November are expected to generate.

For comparison, last year’s fourth quarter tallied $2.93 billion even with Star Wars: The Last JediJumanji: Welcome to the Jungle, and Thor: Ragnarok carrying a huge share at year’s end — but they followed a fairly dismal start in October, and a significant under-performance by Justice League in November.

Disney’s aforementioned Mary Poppins sequel could single-handedly send projections closer to those more optimistic scenarios if the film turns out to be an event-level holiday option for families that fully capitalizes on the nostalgia wave like so many movies have recently.

What’s Behind the 2018 Surge?

Projections early in the year certainly did not call for an annual sum on the level we’re now looking at reaching. There are a number of X factors in any given year — release date changes, quality of product/word of mouth, and others that simply cannot be quantified by numbers. This year has proven to be a perfect storm of surprises with mid-range films (A Quiet Place, The MegCrazy Rich Asians,  and Venom to name a few) and even some already-presumed blockbusters (Black PantherAvengers: Infinity War, The Incredibles 2, Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom) performing well above lofty expectations.

The months ahead are sure to bring deeper dives into this year’s resurgence. We believe the exhibition industry’s efforts toward expanding premium screen offerings and amenities, as well as the proliferation of subscription services — notably AMC’s A-List (which recently crossed 400,000 subscribers), the rise of Sinemia, and the initial interest in Moviepass before a series of overhauls — have played significant roles in rejuvenating enthusiasm and economic viability for moviegoers to see more films in the theater.

Those and other factors are contributing to more volatile box office forecasts than ever before, and will be key components to account for in future projections as the industry continues to adapt and embrace new business models.

We’ll be back to our regular tracking updates next week. For now, check out our current long range expectations in the table below.

Contact us for information about subscribing to Boxoffice.com’s complete suite of forecasting and data services.

8-Week Tracking

Release Date Title 3-Day Wide Opening % Chg from Last Week Domestic Total % Chg from Last Week Estimated Location Count Distributor
10/19/2018 Halloween (2018) $65,000,000 $160,000,000 3,700 Universal
10/19/2018 The Hate U Give (Wide) n/a n/a 2,300 Fox
10/26/2018 Hunter Killer $9,000,000 -18% $26,000,000 -18% 2,500 Lionsgate / Summit
10/26/2018 Indivisible $2,000,000 $6,000,000 1,500 Pure Flix
10/26/2018 Johnny English Strikes Again $4,000,000 $8,750,000 1,600 Universal
11/2/2018 Bohemian Rhapsody $35,000,000 $110,000,000 Fox
11/2/2018 Tyler Perry’s Nobody’s Fool $15,000,000 $40,000,000 Paramount
11/2/2018 The Nutcracker and the Four Realms $21,000,000 5% $80,000,000 1% Disney
11/2/2018 Suspiria (Wide) n/a n/a Amazon Studios
11/9/2018 The Girl in the Spider’s Web $15,000,000 $45,000,000 Sony / Columbia
11/9/2018 Dr. Seuss’ The Grinch $79,000,000 $305,000,000 Universal
11/9/2018 Overlord $14,000,000 $42,000,000 Paramount
11/16/2018 Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald $75,000,000 $222,000,000 Warner Bros.
11/16/2018 Instant Family $18,000,000 n/a Paramount
11/16/2018 A Private War (Expansion) n/a n/a Aviron
11/16/2018 Widows $20,000,000 $78,000,000 Fox
11/21/2018 Creed 2 $23,000,000 $80,000,000 MGM
11/21/2018 The Front Runner (Wide Expansion) n/a n/a Sony
11/21/2018 Ralph Breaks the Internet $50,000,000 $200,000,000 Disney
11/21/2018 Robin Hood $9,500,000 $26,000,000 Lionsgate / Summit
11/21/2018 Green Book n/a n/a Universal
11/30/2018 The Possession of Hannah Grace n/a n/a Sony / Columbia
12/7/2018 The Silence n/a n/a Global Road

* = all monthly and quarterly forecasts in the above report are based on the 4-4-5 accounting calendar