Disney Embarrassed At The Box Office, Loses To Another Major Studio

By Sckylar Gibby-Brown | Published

disney Disney box office

When it comes to the major Hollywood studios, Disney is the mega-king that always seems to be beating the rest of the competition out of the water. Well, not anymore. The stats are in, and for the first time since 2015, Disney is not the top box office hound dog. That honor now goes to Universal Studios.

Universal Studios In The Lead

Universal Studios

Universal Studios is kind of like the middle child of production studios, always fighting for attention while the media continuously talks about Disney and Warner Bros. Discovery.

But this year, the company has clawed its way to center stage with an impressive collection of 24 films that accumulated a whopping $4.907 billion in worldwide ticket sales.

In contrast, Disney only brought in $4.827 billion in box office sales, a staggering $80 million difference.

Rough Year For Disney

marvel runaways

It was a rough year for Disney. Not only did they release fewer films than Universal Studios, but none of Disney’s blockbusters became colossal box office hits the way the studio is used to.

The 17 films the company released included highly anticipated features like Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3, Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny, and The Little Mermaid, but most of the films that came from the House of Mouse this year turned into gigantic failures.

Too Many Flops

In fact, Disney managed to make history with the number of box office flops they had this year, knocking five movies off the list of worst movies ever.

Previously, movies like Heaven’s Gate (1980), Cutthroat Island (1995), and John Carter (2012) were considered some of the worst financial failures, but now Disney films like Ant-Man Quantumania, The Marvels, and Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny are topping the list.

Big Hits From Universal

ryan gosling Disney box office

Meanwhile, Universal left Disney in its dust with box office smashes like The Super Mario Bros. Movie, Oppenheimer, and M3GAN, the first of which is currently ranking as the 16th most successful movie ever.

Still, even with the duds, Disney managed to rank number two for 2023 and also holds the most titles in the top 10 best movies of the year. They had four of the highest-grossing worldwide releases and three of the largest domestic releases.

No Top Three Movies

oppenheimer christopher nolan Disney box office

However, even if Disney did have some of the bigger box office releases, the studio didn’t make it to the top three.

The coveted top three spots were claimed by Warner Bros.’ for Barbie ($1.4 billion) and Universal’s dynamic duo, The Super Mario Bros. Movie ($1.3 billion) and Oppenheimer ($950 million).

This marks the first instance since 2014, excluding the pandemic-hit years of 2020 and 2021, that none of Disney’s films crossed the $1 billion benchmark.

Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 The Big Win

guardians of the galaxy 3 sequel Disney box office

While Disney remains a formidable force in the industry and coming in at number two is no small feat, there’s little doubt that audiences are beginning to wonder at the decline in the quality of Disney movies.

2023 saw many of Disney’s tentpoles falling short of box office expectations with Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 emerging as the sole unequivocal triumph, grossing $845 million. 

Disney’s reliance on expensive productions, typically ranging from $200 million to $250 million in budget, meant that even movies ranking in the box office top 10 struggled to break even.

This was exemplified by Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania, which, despite being the 10th-highest-grossing movie at $476 million, failed to turn a profit during its theatrical run.