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Disney Officially Loses Its Midas Touch For the First Time Since 2015

movie theater with disney film
Credit: Disney/Canva

Disney has officially lost its Midas touch in at least one area for the first time in more than eight years, and it’s not clear if and when that Midas touch might return.

movie theater with disney film

Credit: Disney/Canva

The Walt Disney Company simply isn’t accustomed to losing–or to coming in second place. The company’s theme parks around the world are the top in their class–and often spoken of as being in a class all their own, and Disney-licensed merchandise numbers among some of the world’s top sellers.

And when it comes to entertainment, Disney Studios and its subsidiaries’ studios, including Pixar, Marvel, and Star Wars/Lucasfilm, are responsible for some of the highest-grossing films in history.

guardians of the galaxy vol. 3

“Guardians of the Galaxy, Vol. 3” (2023)/Credit: Disney/Marvel Studios

Disney’s Winning Streak Hits a Bump in the Road

Since 2015, Disney has been the highest-grossing studio at the box office. But times, as they say, are a’changin’, and in 2023, Disney was finally dethroned as the top-grossing studio at the box office.

In 2023, Universal Pictures ranked as the highest-grossing studio at the box office, with a massive $4.907 billion in worldwide ticket sales. Disney ranked as the second-highest-grossing studio, amassing $4.827 billion in ticket sales around the globe.

universal globe and free signs

Credit: Universal Studios/Canva

In 2023, Disney released 17 new films, while Universal released 24 new films. But despite Disney releasing fewer titles in 2023, the House of Mouse studio still had the most films of any studio that ranked in the top ten. Disney also had three of the biggest domestic releases of any studio in 2023 and four of the highest-grossing global releases in addition to those.

Sadly, 2023 was the first year since 2014 (not including the “pandemic years” of 2020 and 2021) that Disney’s studios had no films to find their way into the $1 billion box office club.

The Remainder of the Top Five Studios

While Universal Pictures and Disney ranked first and second at the box office, respectively, Warner Bros. ranked as the third-highest-grossing studio with $3.84 billion in global ticket sales, thanks in part to films like Barbie.

margot robbie in the barbie movie

“Barbie” (2023)/Credit: Warner Bros.

Sony Studios and Paramount ranked fourth- and fifth-highest-grossing among the studios when it came to ticket sales around the globe, each bringing in approximately $2 billion.

2023: A $9 Billion+ Domestic Box Office

Altogether, the domestic box office in 2023 drew in more than $9 billion. That’s a fairly impressive sum, especially considering the industry challenges brought about by the writers’ and actors’ strikes, both of which lasted longer than 100 days during 2023.

Overall, the 2023 domestic box office topped $9 billion, an impressive number considering the challenges the industry faced in 2023, including the actors’ and writers’ strikes.

“Hitting $9 billion is more than just about dollars and cents,” explained Comscore Senior Media Analyst Paul Dergarabedian. “It’s about the lessons learned in what was arguably one of the most significant and challenging years for the movie business.”

A Historic Year at the Box Office

Dergarabedian continued, saying, “Moviegoers are the most powerful players in Hollywood and are providing actionable intelligence on a weekly basis to studios and creatives who can learn much from the unexpected success of films that were not even on the radar at the beginning of the year.”
the lion king in theater

Credit: Disney/Canva

Dergarabedian says that such a “historic box office year” has proven that the American people still enjoy going to the theater to see movies.

“As a historic box office year comes to a close amidst the tumultuous backdrop of strikes, streaming and shifting audience tastes, the bottom line is that the theatrical experience remains an essential part of the entertainment ecosystem.”

movie theater

Credit: Canva

Walt Disney Animation has not announced any planned box office releases in 2024, meaning that Disney could once again have fewer theatrical releases this year than its competitors. As such, it’s entirely possible that Disney could lose its famed #1 spot at the box office in 2024 as well, but only time will tell whether the dethroning of Disney in 2023 will have any staying power in 2024.

About Becky Burkett

Becky's from the Lone Star State and has been writing since she was 10 and encountered her first Disney Park when she was 11. It was love at first Main Street Electrical Parade. Joy is blank lined journals, 0.7 mm pens, and all things Walt, Woody and Buzz, PIXAR, Imagineering, Sleeping Beauty (make it blue!), Disney Parks history and EPCOT. At Disney World, you'll find her croonin' with the birdies at the Enchanted Tiki Room or hangin' with Woody and the gang at Toy Story Land. If you can dream, you really can do it!

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