Despite Star Wars "Success", U.S. Movie Ticket Sales Plunged 4.6% In 2019

Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker led at the box office again last week, but while it has helped catalyze a great 2019 for Disney, pretty much everyone else in the movie industry has sputtered and struggled.

The new "Star Wars" film brought in $72 million this weekend, according to the San Francisco Chronicle, easily beating out Sony Corp.'s "Little Women" and "Spies in Disguise," from Disney's Fox studio.

But the film's gross take, which was expected to be as much as $100 million, was down 59% from last week.

But this shouldn't be much of a surprise: the industry has fallen apart in 2019, with U.S. ticket sales declining 4.6.% from the year prior. 2020 is expected to also be a "challenge". 

Another film that opened this past weekend, "Little Women", was expected to gross $18 million but only brought in $16.5 million. The animated "Spies in Disguise" raked in $13.2 million after projections of $11 million. "Uncut Gems", starring Adam Sandler, expanded to more theaters and brought in $9.6 million, in the middle of its forecasted $8.5 million to $10 million range. 

Recall, just days ago, we reported on movie theater stocks plunging after continued weak ticket sales for Star Wars were announced for the weekend of December 20 to December 22. AMC Entertainment Holdings, Cinemark Holdings Inc., and Cineworld Group Plc all fell in response.

As we noted then, theater stocks have exhibited declines throughout most of the year. 

The movie generated $176 million last weekend weekend, making it the third-largest December debut ever - but it still tracked below estimates of $183 million.

"Hollywood was banking on a strong showing to boost receipts," Geetha Ranganathan, an analyst at Bloomberg Intelligence, wrote.

"The reception, far below predecessors, may have been partly due to mixed critical reviews."

North America's movie theater industry remains in limbo since the emergence of streaming services. A consolidation wave among movie theaters continues despite Hollywood's softer domestic performance in 2019. Operators have been hunting for additional growth channels, including expansion in Asia.

U.K.-based Cineworld is expected to become North America's largest movie theater operator as it acquires Canada's Cineplex in a $1.86 billion deal. 

Netflix has undoubtedly disrupted the industry by releasing its content on television screens and mobile devices instead of at the box office.  Netflix released 371 new movies and TV shows in 2019, over 50 percent more than they did last year, according to data compiled by Variety Insight. 

The movie theater consolidation wave began in 2012 when China's Dalian Wanda Group purchased AMC Entertainment.