The Super Mario Bros. Movie / Oppenheimer

Source: Universal Pictures

The Super Mario Bros. Movie / Oppenheimer

Universal Pictures ended 2023 as the dominant Hollywood studio at the global, North American and international box office for the first time since 2015, ending a dominant run by Disney reaching back to 2016.

Universal Pictures, which released 24 films compared to 17 from Disney, earned $1.94bn at the North American box office, while international added $2.97bn for a $4.91bn global haul, the studio executives said on Tuesday.

This was just enough to edge out Disney, which despite a difficult year with several flops, managed $1.9bn in North America, $2.92bn internationally, and $4.83bn at the global box office.

Universal became the first studio in North America to cross the $1bn threshold, and posted five number one debuts led by The Super Mario Bros. Movie, which ended 2023 as the second highest-grossing film of the year in North America on $575m.

The others that opened top were Fast X ($146.1m), Five Nights At Freddy’s ($137.3m), The Exorcist: Believer ($65.5m), and Knock At The Cabin ($35.4m).

Oppenheimer was not among the number one films as it opened in second place on $82.5m over the July 21-23 weekend behind Warner Bros’ behemoth Barbie, which went on to become the biggest film of the year at the North American and global box office.

Christopher Nolan’s J. Robert Oppenheimer biopic finished 2023 as Universal’s second biggest film of the year in North America on $326.1m and ranks as the highest-grossing biopic of all time at the global box office on $952m, as well as the highest-grossing R-rated film of the year.

On $1.36bn, The Super Mario Bros. Movie finished the year as the highest-grossing animation after delivering the highest global debut on $377m (ahead of Barbie’s $356m) and biggest Illumination debut of all time after it overtook Minions and Despicable Me 3 in like-for-like opening markets.

The Super Mario Bros. Movie ranks as the second biggest animation release of all time at the global box office behind Disney’s Frozen 2 on $1.45bn, and the number two animation of all time in North American behind Pixar’s Incredibles 2 on $609m.

Universal also claims the number one horror film at the global box office in Five Nights at Freddy’s with $290m.

Disney highlights include Marvel Studios’ Guardians Of The Galaxy Vol. 3 on $359m in North America and $846m worldwide; Walt Disney Animation Studios’ The Little Mermaid on $298m domestic and $570m global; and Pixar’s Elemental on $154m domestic, and $496m global.

Studio executives pointed out that Avatar: The Way Of Water, which opened in December 2022, earned more than $1bn in 2023, of which $283m came from North America and $734m from international markets. The sci-fi spent four weekends at number one and tanks as the third highest global release of all time.

Warner Bros ranks third on a reported $1.43bn domestic, $2.41bn international and $3.84bn global; with Sony Pictures in fourth ($1.01bn domestic, $1.08bn international, $2.09bn global); followed by Paramount ($842.41m domestic, $1.18bn international, $2.03bn global).