LOS ANGELES: If streaming was meant to mark the demise of movie theaters, Disney did not get the memo.
Theaters around the world took in an all-time record $42.5 billion last year, thanks largely to an unprecedented string of international mega-hits from the Mouse House such as Avengers: Endgame, The Lion King and Frozen II.
Most of the growth came outside North America, in booming markets such as China, Japan and South Korea, as well as Russia, Brazil, Mexico and western Europe, industry analyst Comscore found in its annual report Friday.
But North American theaters still had their second-biggest ever year, taking more than $11 billion despite a relatively sluggish first six months.
Endgame became the world’s highest-grossing film, taking $2.798 billion to surpass Avatar (2009), although it fell short of the domestic box office record held by 2015’s Star Wars: The Force Awakens.
In a sign of its popularity, the movie was still showing in US picture houses four months after its release.
Superhero films Captain Marvel and Spider-Man: Far From Home (co-produced with Sony) rounded out an all-Disney global top five.
“The stars really did align for Disney in 2019, it was just a spectacular year,” said Comscore senior media analyst Paul Dergarabedian.
“Having another year like 2019, I don’t know when we’ll see that from any studio in the new future,” he said, adding that Disney does have blockbusters like Mulan and Black Widow lined up for 2020.
The overall $42.5 billion take surpassed last year’s record, which was set at $41.7 billion. Figures were not adjusted for inflation.
Streaming platforms such as Netflix have disrupted the industry by luring top talent and vastly out-spending Tinseltown’s traditional studios in recent years, leading many to predict movie theaters would suffer.
For instance Netflix gave its prestige production, Martin Scorsese crime epic The Irishman, a relatively minuscule 26-day window in theaters before the movie launched on its small-screen streaming platform.
“Streaming is great — it makes people more excited about content in general,” said Dergarabedian. “One does not exclude the other… They are competing platforms, but they are both fueling excitement.”