- - Sunday, December 9, 2018

Hollywood observers feared the digital age had done what television, cable TV and VCRs couldn’t do in decades past: land an uppercut to Hollywood’s box office fortunes.

Box office tallies fell by 2.5 percent last year, which included the worst summer movie box office haul in a decade, according to Variety. “Netflix and chill” replaced “I’ll take two tickets for the new Will Smith film, please.”

One year later, the picture looks far less gloomy with a resurgence in ticket sales in the past 11 months, according to BoxOfficeMojo.com.

As of Nov. 28, movie ticket revenue jumped 10.2 percent compared with the same period last year.

BoxOfficeGuru.com Editor Gitesh Pandya credits a trio of 2018 Disney releases that barged their way onto the all-time box office list. “Black Panther” (No. 3, with $700 million in gross ticket sales), “Avengers: Infinity War” (No. 4, with $679 million) and “Incredibles 2” (No. 9, with $607 million) kept turnstiles spinning this year.

They weren’t alone. Surprise smashes such as “Crazy Rich Asians” ($173 million), “Halloween” ($159 million) and “A Quiet Place” ($188 million) filled in some gaps. Even the critically maligned “Venom” crushed expectations with $212 million and counting.

Those figures don’t include overseas ticket sales, which now count as a major part of Hollywood’s revenue stream.

The rise of streaming platforms such as Netflix, Hulu and Amazon Prime Video didn’t derail box office attendance as had been expected, Mr. Pandya said.

That competition should intensify next year, he said, as streaming giants pour more money into “big-star vehicles,” including the forthcoming Martin Scorsese film “The Irishman,” which may debut on Netflix days after a brief theatrical run.

Audiences were more than happy to binge-watch at home and support their local theaters.

“Movies like ‘A Quiet Place,’ ‘Crazy Rich Asians’ and ‘Bohemian Rhapsody’ proved that the right films with the right buzz can make a fortune at the box office when fans want to see them right away on the big screen,” Mr. Pandya said.

Erik Davis, managing editor of movie ticket website Fandango, offers a more blunt reason for Hollywood’s comeback.

“The movies are better,” Mr. Davis said, including “Black Panther,” a box office smash with real Oscar hopes.

That’s only part of the success formula, though.

“We’re living in a time right now where people want to escape, to be entertained,” Mr. Davis said. “The economy is doing better, there are good movies out there movie-going as a culture was a very big part of the conversation this year.”

He added that those elements have combined to create a subconscious push among the public to see more films.

Even a film considered a flop because of its budget and expectations, Disney’s “A Wrinkle in Time,” earned $100 million stateside, Mr. Davis said.

John Nolte, film critic and editor at large for Breitbart News, offers a note of caution despite the robust ticket sales.

The last 12 months served up a “perfect storm,” with valued franchises such as “The Avengers,” “Jurassic World” and “Mission: Impossible” debuting more chapters.

Meanwhile, the James Bond franchise is stalled, the “Star Wars” saga is experiencing slower ticket sales and the end of its Skywalker storyline approaches with the ninth film in the series coming Dec. 20, 2019.

Johnny Depp’s “Pirates of the Caribbean” series may get a reboot, even with the franchise’s main player out of the frame.

Film can survive the technology changes, Mr. Nolte said. It always has. The bigger threat remains a dwindling number of franchises and “event” films that must make hundreds of millions of dollars just to break even.

Attempts at new franchises such as Universal Picture’s “Dark Universe” of classic monster movies, which kicked off with Tom Cruise’s “The Mummy,” failed from the start. Recent flops including “King Arthur: Legend of the Sword” and “Robin Hood” similarly flatlined.

“They’ve really painted themselves into a corner, getting rid of movie star movies, romantic comedies. I don’t think anything on the outside is killing movies. Movies are killing themselves,” Mr. Nolte said.

Hollywood products probably will look similar next year, at least on the surface. Another “Avengers” sequel, a new “X-Men” feature and the latest “Terminator” iteration are in the works.

“When done well and marketed well, [sequels and reboots] simply bring in a lot of money,” said Adam Holz, a senior associate editor with PluggedIn.com, which monitors mature movie content from a faith-based perspective.

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