Never mind Lady Gaga, Warner Bros. is the real star that rose in 2018. Disney seems to own just about everything at this point, so it’s no surprise when one of its brands tops the box office. But Warner Bros. deserves a hat tip for still managing to set a new box office record during the same year as Black Panther, Avengers: Infinity War, and Incredibles 2.
Warner Bros.’s worldwide box office passed $5.6 billion in ticket sales, Variety reports, which was its biggest year to date, and up 9% from 2017. Much of the credit for that is being given to Aquaman — DCEU’s top movie worldwide, and it’s still going strong into 2019 — but also The Meg, Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald, and Ready Player One. More on their respective contributions in a minute.
That worldwide total is from a combination of roughly $1.95 billion domestic and $3.6 billion foreign. The foreign box office marked a jump of 17% from 2017, topping the previous record of $3.17 billion from 2014.
So the big story here is WB’s improvement at the overseas box office, and how much that helped it reach a new record overall. It’s also a promising story for moving forward, since the international box office was such a major player in 2018 in general — from WB’s Aquaman to Sony’s Venom. It’s no longer a death sentence for a studio or franchise if the U.S./Canada crowd sniffs at your movies.
As Variety noted, Warner Bros.’s 2018 saw record years in 21 territories — including the all-important China, but also Russia, and Ukraine. Movies like Ready Player One and Rampage that did only OK business at the North American domestic box office were able to make big bucks overseas.
The DCEU’s Aquaman just opened on December 21, but it was Warner Bros.’s top-grossing title of the year, with $866 million worldwide and counting. So far — as of the first week of January 2019 — $229M of that is from the domestic market and $637M from the foreign box office. We keep talking about the impact of China, and it has given Aquaman $261,246,391 on its own.
WB’s second-biggest hitter was the Fantastic Beasts sequel, Crimes of Grindelwald, which picked up $629 million worldwide, from $157.5M domestic and around $472M worldwide, per Box Office Mojo. That’s actually less than the first film ($814M total, from $234M domestic, $580M worldwide) but it was enough to take second for WB in 2018.
Ready Player One is another film that “only” made $138 million at the domestic box office but picked up $445 million overseas for a total of roughly $583 million, putting it behind Aquaman and Grindelwald. Jason Statham’s The Meg also did big business overseas for the team — earning $145.5M domestic and $385M foreign for a total around $530M.
Smaller films like A Star Is Born and Crazy Rich Asians also made money for WB, especially at the domestic box office, in a flip of the blockbusters script. Their lower budgets and high U.S. takes made for nice profits — plus, it’s looking like A Star Is Born is going to have its name-dropped multiple times at the 2019 Oscars.
So Warner Bros. ended 2018 just behind Disney for market share. That’s what usually happens anyway, but at least this year WB can pop some champagne over its biggest year to date. We’ll have to wait and see how 2019 treats the studio. It’s looking like a big one for the Mouse House, but there’s so much crowded into the year that moviegoers are going to be the real winners.