The box office in 2023 was full of surprises, some good and some bad. As the year began, many assumed that big-budget superhero movies were reliable producers. However, that truism collapsed this year with a string of new releases underperforming similar titles from past years.
Each of these movies cost a bundle to produce and lost $ 100 million for their studios. Marvel’s GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY VOL. 3 and Sony’s SPIDER-MAN: ACROSS THE SPIDER-VERSE were notable exceptions, grossing $846M and $690M worldwide, ranking as the 24th and 39th top-grossing superhero movies ever.
Several other films from well-established franchises also struggled, with FAST X, INDIANA JONES AND THE DIAL OF DESTINY, and MISSION: IMPOSSIBLE – DEAD RECKONING PART ONE all underperforming. What made matters worse was the ballooning budgets for these movies, each costing more than $300 million to produce.
Even with these films falling flat, the box office found new ways to produce with the domestic market crossing $9 billion by the end of the year, an increase of almost 20% compared with 2022. Much of its success came from new, original titles rather than established franchises. This included horror hits beginning with M3GAN, TALK TO ME, SAWX, and FIVE NIGHTS AND FREDDY’S, all produced on a low budget and generating massive profits for their studios.
The first big hit of the year was THE SUPER MARIO BROS. MOVIE which grossed $1.36 billion worldwide, followed by the mid-summer phenomenon of “Barbenheimer,” dueling releases of BARBIE and OPPENHEIMER. Their release on July 21st produced the second-highest-grossing weekend ever and the highest in the pandemic era.
None of these three successes were part of an existing film franchise or comic book series. Independent movies with faith-based themes were also successful, including Lionsgate’s JESUS REVOLUTION and SOUND OF FREEDOM from newcomer Angel Studios.
One lesson from 2023 is likely to be a drive to reduce production costs, with the $200-$300 million budgets becoming less justifiable. In addition, the emphasis on franchises and sequels may lessen, giving more room to original stories and new concepts.