Box office thunder: Disney sales hit US$5b with 'Thor'

Thor: Ragnarok starring Mark Ruffalo, Chris Hemsworth, Tessa Thompson and Tom Hiddleston.
Thor: Ragnarok starring Mark Ruffalo, Chris Hemsworth, Tessa Thompson and Tom Hiddleston. PHOTO: MARVEL STUDIOS

LOS ANGELES (AFP) - The thunderous success of Thor: Ragnarok has helped Walt Disney Studios become the first distributor in history to hit US$5 billion (S$6.7 billion) in annual global box office sales three times, it said Thursday (Nov 30).

It is the third year in a row that the entertainment giant has passed the US$5 billion benchmark, with its sure-fire biggest hit, Star Wars: The Last Jedi, not due in theatres for another two weeks.

Thor: Ragnarok, made by Disney's Marvel subsidiary, is on the verge of surpassing US$800 million worldwide, putting the company's haul for 2017 at US$1.8 billion in North America and US$3.2 billion abroad.

Last year was the first in which all five of Walt Disney Studios' top brands - Disney, Walt Disney Animation Studios, Pixar Animation Studios, Marvel Studios and Lucasfilm - released movies, giving the company an industry-first US$7 billion box office.

Much of Disney's success this year has been due to its live-action remake of Beauty And The Beast, the highest grossing film worldwide in 2017 with US$1.3 billion.

It has been a record year for Marvel, which is celebrating its first hat-trick of $100 million-plus domestic openings, kicked off in May by Guardians Of The Galaxy Vol. 2 and followed a month later by Spider-Man: Homecoming. Those two films also passed US$800 million worldwide, making the trifecta (including Thor) a first for Marvel, with the parent company expected to account for half of the top 10 highest grossing films of 2017.

Pixar's Coco netted US$72.9 million for the five-day Thanksgiving period and is approaching US$180 million worldwide while late 2016 releases Moana and Rogue One: A Star Wars Story bumped up 2017 takings by US$561 million.

The Last Jedi, which hits theaters on Dec 15, is widely expected to have the top domestic opening weekend of the year and cross the $1 billion mark.

The Walt Disney Company, the world's second largest media conglomerate behind Comcast, surprised investors earlier this month by missing Wall Street expectations for fourth quarter revenue and earnings.

But the company is expecting to bounce back as it expands its Star Wars franchise with a new trilogy and live-action TV series, and introduces streaming services to rival Netflix and Amazon.