2019 likely won't top last year's record box office haul, but it could be the secret to 2020's success

Key Points
  • The domestic box office will likely end the year just under 4% behind 2018's record haul.
  • 2019 didn't have the benefit of a strong slate of December movie releases in 2018.
  • While 2018 garnered nearly $1 billion from films released at the end of 2017, which carried over ticket sales, 2019 only tallied $671 million from films released in 2018.
Rey and Kylo Ren face off in "Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker."

With just days left before the New Year, it doesn't look like the 2019 box office will be able to top 2018's record-breaking haul.

As of Sunday, the U.S. box office had tallied around $10.83 billion in ticket sales, about $1 billion shy of 2018′s total.

With a traditional holiday turnout — around $400 million to $600 million over the eight days from Dec. 24 to Dec. 31 — the domestic box office will likely end the year just under 4% behind 2018, according to data from Comscore.

While admissions were similar in 2019 compared to 2018, ticket prices were lower, by a few cents, from the previous year and subscription ticket deals were on the rise. This contributed to the lower box office haul in 2019, but wasn't the only factor.

Several 2019 blockbusters didn't perform as well as expected — "Godzillia: King of Monsters," "Men in Black: International," "Hellboy," "Dark Phoenix" and "Gemini Man" — and the year didn't have the benefit of a strong slate of December movie releases that helped boost 2018's ticket sales.

2018 profited from movies like "Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle," "Star Wars: The Last Jedi" and "The Greatest Showman," all of which were released in 2017 but played well into January and February. The 2017 titles that played through the first part of 2018 accounted for $958.1 million, according to data from Comscore.

Jack Black and Karen Gillan star in "Jumanji: The Next Level."

For comparison, 2019 only garnered $671.6 million from titles that were released in 2018 but also played into the next year. Those films included "Aquaman," "Mary Poppins Returns," "Bumblebee" and several Oscar-nominated pictures like "Green Book," "The Favourite" and "Bohemian Rhapsody."

"2019 could have matched or exceeded 2018's record haul had we had a stronger slate of films in late 2018," Paul Dergarabedian, senior media analyst at Comscore, said.

With that in mind, 2020 could have a similarly strong start to 2018. Films like "Frozen II," "Jumanji: The Next Level," "Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker," alongside upcoming titles like "Little Women" and "Spies in Disguise," are expected to give 2020 a solid kick-off.

"The general feeling is that many of these movies will certainly carry over well into January and possibly February," Rolando Rodriguez, CEO and president of Marcus Theaters, said. "We didn't have that benefit in 2019."

The list of promising 2020 releases includes "Birds of Prey," "Wonder Woman 1984," "Mulan," "No Time to Die," "Black Widow," "Fast and Furious 9," two Pixar films, "Ghostbusters: Afterlife," "Jungle Cruise" and "The Eternals," among others.

If those films are well-received by audiences, 2020 could have a chance of chasing and passing 2018's $11.88 billion ticket sales record.

It's likely 'The Rise of Skywalker' will cross the billion dollar mark, media anlyst says