More ‘Inside Out 2’-Level Surprises Will Be Needed to Reach an Unlikely $8 Billion Domestic Box Office in 2024

It’s great to end the first half of 2024 with its biggest hit still churning out unexpectedly huge grosses as “Inside Out 2” (Disney) is doing. With over $388 million in U.S./Canada ticket sales after 12 days, it could reach as high as $600 million — more than double pre-release high-end projections.

It’s way too soon to know whether this is a portent of how other highly anticipated titles from the rest of the year will do, or if it’s sui generis. The reality is that for the year to end up as not the total disaster it has been but in fact improve, “Inside Out 2” can’t be an exception.

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Why? Because a combination of the shortfall so far, historical precedent, and a still somewhat (but less so) depleted release schedule all suggests there’s a limit to short-term improvement.

Odds are against 2024 recovering to the extent that it will be “only” 12 percent less than 2023 ($8 billion compared to $9.1 billion). Studio and other estimates are improving, but the range expected now falls between $7.5 billion and $7.9 billion.

First there’s the math. Through June 30 (July 3 actually starts the second half), total box office will sit at around $3.6 billion. That would be about 19 percent below first half 2023, much improved from earlier, but if sustained would end up at $7.2 billion (down from $9.1 billion, the figure provided by Comscore which has access to more than just distributor reported grosses).

Historically, each half of the year has been roughly equal (2023 = 49 percent; 2022 = 50 percent; 2019 = 50 percent; consistancy like this is very unusual). For 2024 to be different would be a significant anomaly.

‘Inside Out 2’Pixar

Yet things could be different this year. “Inside Out 2,” like “Barbie” last year, is a case where lightning struck. But these cases are rare for sure.

It came just after “Bad Boys: Ride for Life” (Sony), at most expected to gross $150 million, now seems like a possible $200 million grosser or close domestically. That gives hope that the franchise-laden near-term release schedule might find similar results.

Not all years are equal, with the first six months of 2024 having some specific issues that decreased its take related to release schedule delays from the 2023 industry strikes. The early months were weakened by a very soft Christmas (whose releases often carry over success into January and beyond.) Then Disney re-set “Deadpool & Wolverine,” its sole theatrical Marvel release this year, out of the normal early May date until late July.

Those two factors alone might have caused a $500 million drop in the first half (if the “Deadpool” sequel performs at its high-end potential). It’s not inappropriate to provide these reasons as asterisks beside the $3.6 billion total.

“Deadpool” on July 26 is anticipated as the most likely multi-hundred million domestic grosser for the rest of the year (although perhaps now not as certain as #1). We’ll have a better sense over the next two weeks with the opening of “A Quiet Place: Day One” (Paramount) this Friday and particularly “Despicable Me 4” (Universal) next Wednesday. The latter had been expected to perform at the same nearly $300 million level projected pre-opening for “Inside Out 2.”

Apart from these three, the fourth remaining summer blockbuster is expected to be “Twisters” mid-July (Universal domestic, Warner Bros. foreign), the reimagining of the 1996 hit, this time with Glen Powell and Daisy Edgar-Jones. Along with strong advance buzz, this could fill the popcorn movie slot filled in past years by “Raiders of the Lost Ark,” “Independence Day,” and “Jurassic Park,” all massive hits.

The optimistic take on the remainder of the year comes as much or more from the prospects post-Labor Day. It starts with “Beetlejuice Beetlejuice” (Warner Bros.) September 6, then “Joker: Folie à Deux” (Warner Bros.) October 4, and “Venom: The Last Dance” (Sony) October 25. Three films with the potential of $200 million or more (“Joker” likely the biggest), compared to last year with none.

Cynthia Erivo and Ariana Grande in 'Wicked' movie
‘Wicked’Universal Pictures/YouTube

Last year also had no Thanksgiving/Christmas releases pass $200 million by year’s end (only “Wonka” eventually made it). This year? “Moana 2” (Disney) and “Wicked” (Universal) in November, and possibly “Mufasa: The Lion King” (Disney) just before Christmas might have a shot at that.

Notice something? A year after the extraordinary success of “Barbie” and “Oppenheimer,” studios and theaters are back to relying mostly on sequels and franchise films to succeed. The “Bad Boys” and “Inside Out” recent successes give hope that this does propel the second half uptick. But the industry is never going to get healthy unless the bounty includes regular doses of fresh blood.

The bottom line is that even with a second half $4 billion ($7.6 billion total), 2024’s grosses would still be off 16 percent from last year. $8 billion would feel like a major victory, even if down 12 percent, since it would suggest momentum is beginning to accelerate. But even then that’s a long way from the peak of just under $12 billion in 2018 (which, even worse for comparison, would be around $14 billion at today’s ticket cost).

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