Thanks to films like Aquaman, Warner Bros. had its biggest year ever at the worldwide box office in 2018. As powerful and far-reaching as Disney is, the Mouse House isn't the only major Hollywood player in the modern-day studio landscape. WB has long been one of Disney's biggest competitors, and that goes back to well before the latter acquired Marvel Studios, as its counter to WB's own comic book company DC Films. And as profitable as 2018 was for Disney, WB did quite well at the box office too.
More than anything, however, 2018 was a good year for WB when it came to the international box office. Aquaman, for example, has already grossed over $600 million at the global box office and nearly $850 million total, less than two weeks after its premiere stateside. It wasn't the only worldwide hit for WB last year either, which is why the studio was able to break one of its own box office records in 2018.
According to Variety, Warner Bros. crossed $5.6 billion in ticket sales at the worldwide box office in 2018. That marks a new annual record for the studio, even though its domestic total was actually down from years past (more on that shortly). Disney, of course, had an even bigger year in 2018 and managed to gross $7.3 billion at the global box office - falling just short of its own record of $7.6 billion, from 2016 - thanks to big hits like Marvel Studios' Black Panther and Avenges: Infinity War. Still, WB gave the Mouse a good run for the money (somewhat literally).
More than anything, it was the international box office that saved WB from an underwhelming year at the domestic box office in 2018. A Star is Born was the only WB film to gross $200 million in the U.S. during 2018 itself (Aquaman will cross that threshold this weekend). While films with low to mid-range budgets like Crazy Rich Asians, Ocean's Eight, and The Nun all made well over $100 million stateside, Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald struggled and has only accumulated $156 million in the U.S. to date. Similarly, Ready Player One and Rampage made two-thirds to three-quarters of their total box office outside the States, making them profitable in the process. Even Tomb Raider grossed close to four times its disappointing $58 million domestic take at the international box office.
Another factor that worked in WB's favor was the variety of their 2018 films. Aquaman, of course, is the latest in an ever-growing string of hit superhero tentpoles - and yet, thanks to its throwback genre elements, it stood apart from the other comic book adaptations released in 2018. Similarly, WB's biggest movies at the worldwide box office last year varied from romantic comedies (Crazy Rich Asians) to movies that feature giant monster sharks (The Meg), romantic melodramas (A Star is Born), supernatural horror films (The Nun), and so forth. There are some important lessons to take away from that, not least of which is that audiences like having an eclectic mix of entertainment options to choose from (as much of a no-brainer as that might seem). With an equally diverse movie lineup planned for 2019, WB appears to be in good shape for the next twelve months too.