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Disney's first quarter of 2019 was not practically perfect in every way, and that's because it had a disappointing end of 2018.
Even when you're at the top, you're still competing with yourself. Disney owns just about everything now, and dominated the 2018 box office. That said, many Disney/Lucasfilm titles disappointed both at the box office and in home entertainment in comparison to the previous year. So during The Walt Disney Company's recent Q1 2019 Earnings Conference Call, execs had to admit this quarter didn't compare well to the same time last year. Here's more on that from Disney's Senior Executive Vice President and Chief Financial Officer, Christine McCarthy:
At Studio Entertainment, higher TV, SVOD and home entertainment results were more than offset by lower worldwide theatrical results, reflecting the phenomenal performance of Star Wars: The Last Jedi, Thor: Ragnarok and Coco last year compared to Ralph Breaks the Internet, Mary Poppins Returns and The Nutcracker and the Four Realms this year.
Yeah, Star Wars: The Last Jedi was polarizing to fans -- and made less than The Force Awakens -- but it made $1,332,539,889 worldwide. Since it came out in December 2017, most of that money was made in early 2018. Disney/Lucasfilm had no Star Wars movie open in December 2018, and Mary Poppins Returns didn't even come close to that December success, so there was nothing to brag about in the first quarter of 2019. Womp womp.
This will not be a problem in 2020, with Star Wars: Episode IX opening this December and carrying over into early 2020. In fact, 2019 is set to be gigantic for Disney on multiple fronts.
But that doesn't help Disney right now, and there's no ignoring that this first quarter was a bit of a downer. As Christine McCarthy mentioned, Ralph Breaks the Internet, Mary Poppins Returns, and The Nutcracker and the Four Realms all opened late in the year but made much less than their 2017 counterparts Star Wars: The Last Jedi, Thor: Ragnarok and Coco.
That unflattering comparison also carried over to home entertainment use in the first quarter, as Christine McCarthy pointed out:
As a reminder, last year's second quarter theatrical results included the outstanding performance of Black Panther and the carryover performance of Star Wars: The Last Jedi and Coco. Home entertainment results also faced a difficult comparison, given Q2 titles last year included Star Wars: The Last Jedi, Thor: Ragnarok and Coco. As a result, we expect operating income from our theatrical and home entertainment businesses to be $450 million to $500 million lower than in Q2 last year, which was the best second quarter in the studio's history.
So, in case she didn't make it clear, they REALLY miss The Last Jedi, Thor, and Coco and wish the late 2018 group could compare. Instead, they're taking a Q1 loss on that front thanks to the comparatively disappointing performances of the Nutcracker, Mary, and Ralph.
There was a time when Aquaman director James Wan said he was worried about the December competition for his film, including Mary Poppins Returns, but Warner Bros.' Aquaman is currently at $1,108,200,156 worldwide and Mary Poppins Returns tapped out at just under $330 million.
At least that's better than The Nutcracker and the Four Realms, which made $173.8 million worldwide off a reported $120M production budget, per Box Office Mojo. Ralph made $487 million, which is slightly better than Wreck-It Ralph at $471M, but less than Coco, which opened for Disney the previous November, and made $807 million.
That's not even bringing up Disney's disappointments from earlier in 2018 -- including Solo: A Star Wars Story, which came out last May and was low for a Star Wars movie. A Wrinkle in Time and Disney's Christopher Robin also made less than hoped, with Ant-Man and the Wasp also making less than most Marvel Studios movies.
That said, Black Panther and Avengers: Infinity War more than made up for the rest of the team. Black Panther was the highest-grossing movie of 2018 at the domestic (U.S./Canada) box office, with Infinity War making the most money overall, worldwide. Incredibles 2 also joined the billion club for Disney in 2018.
None of that helped the first quarter of 2019, though, since those wins came fairly early in 2018, and only gave bragging rights to previous quarters.
As we mentioned before, 2018 may have brought Disney more overall money than the previous year -- thanks to Black Panther, Avengers: Infinity War and Incredibles 2 -- but it may not have been as profitable as the previous year since 2018 saw several very expensive films underperform.
There are so many high-profile Disney films coming out in 2019, it's very possible this will be Disney's best year ever. Everyone on the earnings call must've known that, but they have to acknowledge and learn from the disappointments on the way to greater success. Here's the full schedule of what's ahead in 2019.