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In a turbulent year for theaters, Disney still won the box office

By Frank Pallotta, CNN Business

In a turbulent year when the pandemic continued to upend the business of movie-going and streaming blockbusters at home became commonplace, one thing returned to normal: Disney topped the box office.

Disney was Hollywood’s top studio in North America last year with a 25% market share at the box office. That includes four of the top 10 films of the year domestically and three of the top five domestic openings of the year.

Even though in-person audiences were hard to come by last year, US moviegoers showed up for Disney films. That said, even though Disney won at the US ticket booth, its 2021 totals were a steep fall from its pre-pandemic box office levels.

The House of Mouse said it notched $2.9 billion at the global box office last year thanks to hits such as “Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings,” “Black Widow” and “Jungle Cruise.” Nearly $3 billion worldwide is a solid total all things considered, but is still less than what Disney made in North America alone in 2019, 2018 and 2016.

Domestically, the studio brought in roughly $1.1 billion in 2021, putting it at No. 1 just ahead of Sony, which made about $1 billion in North America last year, according to Comscore.

Disney’s steep box office drop is not a surprise given the ongoing pandemic, which has changed industry dynamics and pushed streaming to the forefront. Although Disney’s drop is significant, comparing its box office right now to its pre-coronavirus level is like comparing, well, the company’s high-speed Space Mountain roller coaster to the leisurely boat ride of It’s a Small World’s.

With 2021 now behind it, Disney is looking forward to a slate of films that could be big hits in 2022.

They include such highly anticipated Marvel films as “Doctor Strange In The Multiverse of Madness,” “Thor: Love and Thunder” and the “Black Panther” sequel “Black Panther: Wakanda Forever.”

It will also release other notable non-superhero related films like Pixar’s “Lightyear,” a new take on the beloved “Toy Story” character, and the next film in the lucrative Avatar series, “Avatar 2.”

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