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For the last three years, Disney has ruled supreme over the holidays, with Star Wars films The Force Awakens, Rogue One, and The Last Jedi not only dominating the holiday box office but winding up as the most profitable films of their respective years. But with Lucasfilm’s relatively muted Solo: A Star Wars Story premiering in May, Disney left the December crown wide-open for Aquaman to swim right up and snatch it. But even if Mary Poppins Returns continues to underperform, and Aquaman shoots up the annual box-office charts, Disney will likely still wrap up an incredibly profitable 2018 with half of the top-10 performing films of the year: Solo, Ant-Man and the Wasp, Incredibles 2, Avengers: Infinity War, and the unstoppable Black Panther. The juggernaut studio is also set to have an even bigger 2019 with both the Fox merger expected to finally close and a groaning slate including Captain Marvel, Dumbo, The Lion King, Aladdin, Avengers: Endgame, Toy Story 4, and, back to claim the holidays, both Frozen 2 and Star Wars: Episode IX.
Everyone concerned about the spirit of competition in Hollywood should be rooting for Aquaman’s continued climb up the money-making charts. Despite both the box-office success of and awards season buzz for A Star Is Born as well as Crazy Rich Asians, WB has yet to anchor a single film into the top 10 box office ranks of the year. (The Bradley Cooper/Lady Gaga hit is currently sitting at number 11.) After only a few days in theaters, Aquaman isn’t in yet, but if the film winds up having a long tail, it could easily get there, pushing Sony’s similarly likable-yet-messy Venom out of the number 10 spot.
Both Venom and Aquaman also offer potentially brighter futures for two superhero franchises that are about to face the post-merger prospect of the already dominant Marvel Studios absorbing the X-Men, Fantastic Four, and other Fox properties into its Avengers stable. Aquaman’s robust box-office showing has already sent Warner Bros. to work on early development for a sequel, giving the wobbly Justice League franchise its first hint of stability since Wonder Woman vastly over-performed last year.
And while it seems a bit unfair to call the fun and fine Aquaman a win over Disney, when that studio produced one of the most genre-elevating films of the year with February’s Black Panther, what’s true of both the Momoa vehicle and Tom Hardy’s Venom is that they both showed clear promise for stronger, more sure-footed sequels. Disney may still be on the precipice of total studio domination, but Aquaman proves there are at least a few other heroes and antiheroes in the mix to keep things competitive.
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