After “Avatar: The Way of Water,” could Disney have another $1 billion blockbuster in store by 2023?

Disney (DIS 0.81%) he finally returned to his billion-dollar blockbuster form with the release of Avatar: The Path of Water in late 2022. The sequel to what remains the biggest global blockbuster in history grossed $1.7 billion globally over its first four weekends.

Disney has several more major releases scheduled for the coming year, many of them sequels to popular franchises. But attracting audiences to theaters isn’t as easy as it used to be, and the entertainment giant’s next blockbuster movies may not make it to that milestone.

But even if none of Disney’s 2023 releases reach the billion-dollar box office level, its movie studios could still give investors reason to cheer.

Bringing back audiences

Ticket sales increased in 2022, but were still well below pre-pandemic levels.

Global box office sales reached $26 billion last year, up 27%. Still, that number was about 35% lower than the average from 2017 to 2019.

Theaters say they are getting fewer new releases than in pre-pandemic times, but it’s also worth noting that even the biggest blockbusters aren’t drawing the same level of attendance as they were just a few years ago. Last year, only three releases topped $1 billion in worldwide ticket sales: Top Gun: Maverick; Jurassic World Dominion; Y Avatar: The Path of Water. In 2019, nine launches reached the 10-digit mark, seven of them from Disney.

However, one thing has become a constant in the movie business: franchises have drawing power. Each of the top 10 domestic releases of 2022 was based on an existing film franchise. And Disney owns a greater volume of popular intellectual property than any other studio operator.

Here’s how he plans to put those brands to work in 2023.

Disney has an attractive list of releases for 2023

Disney’s planned 2023 releases include three Marvel movies, a live-action remake of an animated favorite, and a new installment in the LucasFilm franchise.

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The Marvel Cinematic Universe kicks off Phase 5 with the release of Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania. will continue with Guardians of the Galaxy: Vol. 3 Y the wonders later in the year.

captain marvel it was the only one of the predecessors of the three releases to exceed $1 billion. And after the latest Black Panther and Thor-focused installments failed to match the ticket sales of their predecessors, it’s going to be hard for any of this year’s releases to do so. It is worth noting that Doctor strange in the multiverse of madness probably enjoyed an increased presence of the main character in 2021 Spider-Man: No Way Homeelevating its box office run above that of the first Doctor Strange film.

While all of these releases have the potential to gross $1 billion or more, they won’t get by on their titles alone. They will need convincing arguments and action.

The live action remake of The little Mermaid it also has the potential to attract audiences during the summer. However, Disney’s casting decision has sparked controversy that could affect attendance, regardless of whether the controversy is justified.

Indiana Jones will also return in 2023, 15 years after the last installment in the series. Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull managed $790 billion after its 2008 release, which is over $1 billion in 2023 dollars. While nostalgia and big CGI action scenes could drive attendance, there are no guarantees that Indiana Jones and the dial of fate It will surpass the previous installment in the series.

Disney has several other movies slated for 2023, including a release from Pixar and Disney Animation. Any one of them could be a surprise hit, but without well-known franchises to help them attract audiences, they’re unlikely to reach a billion dollars.

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Despite the uncertainty, Disney’s 2023 box office performance may still top its 2022 total, which came in at $4.9 billion thanks in part to Avatar. At the same time, it’s possible for Disney to end 2023 without a single billion-dollar blockbuster, that wouldn’t necessarily make any of their releases flop.

The benefits of direct to consumer

Every Disney movie eventually makes its way to Disney+, which generates revenue in the form of monthly fees from its subscribers.

Perhaps one of the best things Disney’s new releases will do is encourage customers to keep their Disney+ subscriptions going over the summer, as each month brings a new big release to the service. All media companies struggle to get subscribers, and many consumers have become accustomed to switching between various content services. Disney movies are not only popular, but rewatchable, which could help keep your churn rate well below average for the streaming space.

Even if none of Disney’s 2023 releases break the billion-dollar mark, it could end up with the strongest set of new movie titles on its streaming service. And with the media industry’s growing focus on streaming profits, that stronger slate of releases for 2023 (more avatar: the path of water, coming to the service this year) could support great subscriber numbers for Disney+.

Adam Levy has positions at Walt Disney. The Motley Fool has positions and recommends Walt Disney. The Motley Fool recommends the following options: $145 long calls in January 2024 at Walt Disney and $155 short calls in January 2024 at Walt Disney. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.

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