The Future of the Box Office – What will be the next film to make $1 billion?

It’s no secret that the box-office landscape has been at an all-time low with a substantial challenge in its path to reach where it once was. Going back a couple of years ago and making $1 billion wasn’t a tremendous deal, and we expected it for a lot of films. Take, for instance, 2019 for example, had nine films that made $1 billion – NINE!

  • Avengers: Endgame ($2.79 billion)
  • The Lion King ($1.65 billion)
  • Frozen II ($1.45 billion)
  • Spider-Man: Far From Home ($1.13 billion)
  • Captain Marvel ($1.28 billion)
  • Joker ($1.07 billion)
  • Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker ($1.07 billion)
  • Toy Story 4 ($1.07 billion)
  • Aladdin ($1.05 billion)

It’s quite surprising that less than a million dollars separated three films, considering that we are currently talking in the billions right now. What’s even more surprising is the fact there isn’t an original property on here – all films stemming from some well-known source material. Franchise-related films are the backbone of Hollywood, there is no other evidence needed to determine this. While we often view the franchise overload as destructive to creativity in Hollywood (myself included), we need to rewire this thought process.

Franchise-related films are the key to Hollywood’s survival.  

We can use the list of films noted above as an antidote to the current box office drought. Look, it will take a good amount of time for the box office to reach the heights it did in 2019. The way to get back there is through popular franchise films that were guaranteed to do well in a COVID-19 free era. Let’s look at two recent box office debuts (there are other factors that influence this, but it still is significant) – Tom & Jerry and Raya and the Last Dragon

Tom & Jerry

Opening Weekend: $14,110,000

Raya and the Last Dragon

Opening Weekend: $8,502,498


This is quite the disparity. We need to consider the fact that Tom & Jerry is also available on HBOmax for free to subscribers while Raya and the Last Dragon is available on Disney+ at a $30 premium. It seems odd for a well-marketed and critically acclaimed Disney animated film to do so poorly compared to a film that just has 25% on Rotten Tomatoes. A lot more goes into determining the reasons for box office success, but predetermined popularity has a strong correlation to box office success. 

So what happens now? Well, as 2020 taught us, you can’t really predict such things, but you can theorise or try to add to the developing conversation. Major studios appear hesitant to release top-tier blockbusters in cinemas, as they are extremely unlikely to make the amount of money they usually would. It wouldn’t be surprising if we get another wave of films that get delayed as vaccinations continue to ramp up and become fully accessible to all. Major studios such as Disney, Warner Brothers, Universal Pictures, and Paramount Pictures need to take a leap of faith and keep their largest films at the current date. Established and popular franchises can draw in the crowds, which can help instill trust between the cinema and the consumer. The market in China appears to be strong enough to produce a billion dollar film in the near-future but it is unlikely that any film produced outside of China in the year, 2021 and perhaps 2022, will make a billion dollars worldwide.

Franchise-related films are the key to revitalize the box office landscape and pave the way for Hollywood’s theatrical future. 

Alright, so that brings us back to the headline – what will be the next film to make a billion dollars? Well, if you are following the numbers, two local movies in China have made a HUGE amount of money this year. Detective Chinatown 3 has made $680 million in China while Hi, Mom has made a staggering $783 million in China, these are monumental numbers, even in normal times. It is not unreasonable to think that a locally produced film in China could topple the billion mark – although the China market needs a bit more time to get there. For a film to reach the milestone, it will need a global release and a wide appeal.

Let’s digest some candidates:

Black Widow

Disney seems to be adamant to lock this in for an exclusive theatrical release in its current May 07, 2021 release date, but hasn’t confirmed it just yet. Vaccination rollouts are still well underway and will continue through this date, so it is unfair to expect this film to come close to the billion milestone.

F9

I just found out it is called ‘F9’. The Fast & Furious franchise never fails to surprise me with their title choices! Back to it, this one is a strong consideration for me as this franchise has obtained a massive worldwide appeal and adding John Cena is only going to help gain more fans. It is still too close to today’s circumstances that it will struggle to get close to a billion. However, keep an eye on this film and its box office as it might just be the first to get to $500 million post COVID-19.

No Time to Die

Skyfall made $1.1 billion while Spectre made $880 million so pass, this film ain’t touching 1 billion despite its icon status and appeal in the European regions. Considering its mid-October release date, the $500 million mark won’t be out of reach.

Spider-Man: No Way Home

Okay, you are looking at a serious, serious candidate here. Firstly, it is a December 2021 release and the world will (hopefully) be in a healthier state and consumers will be returning to normality and socialising. Secondly, it releases in the holiday period where blockbusters can often have small drops weekend-to-weekend. Thirdly, and most importantly, it all lies within the details – what surprises does Spider-Man: No Way Home have for us? Tobey Maguire? Andrew Garfield? Doctor Strange? Scarlet Witch? If the casting rumors are true, then this will be the first film after COVID-19 to reach 1 billion dollars (You heard it here first).

Let’s say the casting rumors are not true, let’s look at some other candidates:

The Batman

The March 2022 release certainly provides some security in predicting this film to break the billion milestone in a post-pandemic world, but it faces an uphill battle outside of COVID-19 related issues. Batman, the character, has become an over-saturated pop-culture icon with Christian Bale’s Batman and Ben Affleck’s Batman. Are we ready for another Batman? Granted, this adaptation looks incredible, but it warrants skepticism. It entirely depends on word-of-mouth for this film to get $1 billion.

Doctor Strange: Multitude of Madness

We know Marvel has something special up its sleeve with this film and Sam Raimi directing only elevates the amount of excitement for this. Again, same as Spider-Man: No Way Home, it depends on what will happen and who will be in this film.

Jurassic Park: Dominion

Fallen Kingdom left an interesting tease at the end of it, and this film promises to bring the entire franchise together by integrating the old cast with the new. The previous two Jurassic World films breezed by the billion mark despite questionable quality, so if none of the above films are the first to reach a billion, then this film is essentially a lock – considering that June 2022 release date. 

Lightyear

Never underestimate the power of Toy Story – whilst a very odd take on the character of Buzz Lightyear, it still guarantees it will make substantial money.

Black Panther 2

It is almost impossible to predict this one – simply because we don’t know how the film will deal with the tragic passing of Chadwick Boseman who played the iconic T’Challa/Black Panther. Either way, Marvel and Ryan Coogler will have everyone’s attention on how they overcome this!

Here’s a fun prediction that people will laugh at me for, what will be the first film to reach $2 billion:

Avatar 2

There isn’t much to say, it is essentially a lock at this point.

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