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Walt Disney Pictures' latest release was the costly western adventure The Lone Ranger, which is currently tanking at the box office. Whether the blame can be laid on a misapprehension that audiences cared about old masked cowboy, or on the widespread critical scorn, or on Johnny Depp's star power overreach, the film is estimated to lose the House of Mouse upwards of $150 million dollars. But don't cry for Disney. Thanks to the wild success of their first three releases of 2013, they've become the first studio this year to gross a billion dollars at the domestic box office. And just think how much more they are making in merchandizing.
Deadline broke the news on this marker, and points out this is the eighth consecutive year that Disney has managed to make more than a billion domestically. But how did they get there? Well, the studio started off strong with their Wizard of Oz prequel—that for legal reasons they can't call a Wizard of Oz prequel--Oz the Great and Powerful. Hopes were for the fantasy film that centered on a self-centered carnival magician who becomes the titular wizard would appeal to the same audiences that turned out in droves to make 2010's Alice in Wonderland the smash hit it was (the Tim Burton-directed picture ultimately pulled in $334 million domestically, but over $1 billion worldwide). Though Oz received mixed reviews from critics, it earned more than $234 million at the domestic box office; another $257 mil was earned internationally making for $491 million globally to date.
Disney's Marvel Studios acquisition led to their second hit of 2013: Iron Man 3. This one has been embraced by audiences and critics alike, resulting in record-breaking box office totals. A month after it made its US debut, the film was declared the fifth highest grossing movie of all time worldwide. Domestically, it's pulled in $406 million, but globally that total leaps to $1.2 billion. And of course all that money led Marvel to finally give Robert Downey Jr. whatever massive fee he is demanding to renew his Stark contract for Avengers 2 & 3.
Their June success came courtesy of their collaboration with Pixar. Because it was a prequel to the beloved Monsters Inc., critics and audiences were initially suspicious of Monsters University, fearing it would be a cash grab and stain on Pixar's lauded reputation. But when the former actually saw the film, the reviews were good. After proving itself to critics, the plucky prequel proved itself at the box office, making an astounding $227 million domestically in just three weekends. Already it's worldwide total exceeds $411 million. So, even though The Lone Ranger has made only $59 million domestically, and $24 million abroad, Disney has already brought in one billion in the US, and double that globally.
With the year just half over, Disney is sitting pretty with six more films to come in 2013. Next up is Planes, a spin-off of Pixar's Cars. The fall will bring Thor: The Dark World, which seems certain to be a hit. Then November brings a new animated adventure Frozen. December will see the release of the chipper biopic Saving Mr. Banks. The studio is also distributing a pair of DreamWorks productions, the Vince Vaughn comedy The Delivery Man and the WikiLeaks docudrama The Fifth Estate. So, The Lone Ranger shouldn't prove too humbling. Just imagine how their ledgers will look when Star Wars rolls back into theaters in 2015