Despite a slow start, the 2019 box office is showing signs of strength. However, even with blockbuster gems like "Avengers: Endgame," "The Lion King" and "Toy Story 4," it could still struggle to top 2018′s ticket sale record by year-end.
A weak slate of movies in the beginning of the year put 2019 at a deficit. Since the first quarter, the box office has been trailing behind last year's number by a significant margin. Heading into October, the box office was more than 5% behind 2018 during the same nine-month period.
In order to even come close to the $11.9 billion mark 2018 set, the 2019 box office will need upcoming features like "Frozen 2," "Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker" and "Jumanji: The Next Level," to perform well with audiences.
In total, the box office needs to haul in more than $3.4 billion in sales over the next three months in order to surpass 2018's full-year ticket sales. However, it should be noted that no fourth-quarter period in history has ever garnered more than $3 billion in ticket sales.
The highest gross for the fourth quarter came in 2018, when films like "The Grinch," "Aquaman," and "Ralph Breaks the Internet" helped the box office score just under $2.95 billion in ticket sales, according to data provided by Comscore.
"We are running out of runway," Paul Dergarabedian, senior media analyst at Comscore, said. "We have 12 weekends."
Still, 2019 does stand a chance of making up ground.
From Disney, "Maleficent: Mistress of Evil," "Frozen 2″ and "Star Wars: Rise of Skywalker" are due out in October, November and December, respectively. While analysts foresee "Maleficent" drawing a decent crowd, it's "Frozen 2" and "Rise of Skywalker" that are expected to bump up the box office receipts.
While "Frozen" made around $263 million between its November release in 2013 and the end of the year, it's become one of the most popular properties for children and is likely to see a massive opening weekend over the Thanksgiving holiday and solid ticket sales through December.
Other hotly anticipated releases include: "Terminator: Dark Fate," "Zombieland 2," "Doctor Sleep," "Jumanji: The Next Level" and "Little Women."
Notably, "Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle" hauled in $169 million between its Dec. 20 release and New Years in 2017, and went on to collect $404.5 million in the U.S. through its run. "The Next Level" arrives one week earlier in Dec. this year, giving it the opportunity to ring up more sales before the year ends.
Not to mention, 2018 had a very weak ending, with last December's ticket sales slumping 20% from the year prior.
And it was the first December since 2015 that Disney didn't have a "Star Wars" movie in theaters. Instead, Warner Bros. took that open tentpole slot and released "Aquaman." The $199 million the aquatic hero collected during the month paled in comparison to what "Force Awakens," "Rogue One" and "The Last Jedi" had made during their December runs.
"Rise of Skywalker," the finale in the Skywalker Saga, is expected to bring in between $500 million and $600 million during its December run.
"It's not a existential crisis if we don't beat last year's numbers," Dergarabedian said. "A win for the industry is to have a solid year."
Dergarabedian noted that even if 2019 does not surpass 2018's numbers, it will set up the first quarter of 2020 for success.
After all, a number of December released films have gone on to make money after New Year's Day, contributing to the next year's box office haul. "Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle" garnered $235 million after New Year's, "Star Wars: The Force Awakens" picked up in $285 million and "Star Wars: The Last Jedi" added over $100 million in the new year.
With another "Jumanji" and Star Wars film, as well as the possibility that "Frozen 2" could have solid replay value in the new year, 2020 could get a nice jump start.