The China effect. Whilst worldwide the number of cinema screens is increasing, there is no country in the world expanding anywhere near as fast as China. The Wall Street Journal reported at the end of 2016 that the number of screens that China was adding by that time was 27 a DAY, and by the end of 2016 the Chinese market would be larger than the US Domestic market. China notoriously controls the number of foreign films that are due to be released each calendar year in the country, but if your film manages to get into this market the chances of hitting the $1 billion start to become a bit easier.
Pacific Rim is a good example of where a film can “make or break” with the China effect. The blockbuster released back in 2013 whilst not a disaster, only made $101 million domestic off a $190 million budget. In China, however, the film grossed $111 million, higher than the domestic total and worldwide the film finally grew to a total of $411 million. Had China not accepted the film to be shown (of not captured the imagination of the Chinese people) the worldwide box office would have been a major disappointment. $411 million however, means the film made a profit and there has been enough interest in the franchise that Pacific Rim 2 was green lit.
The last 2 years alone has accounted for 9 films breaking the billion barrier. 5 during 2015 (Star Wars: The Force Awakens, Jurassic World, Furious 7, Avengers: Age of Ultron and Minions) and a further 4 during 2016 (Captain America: Civil War, Rogue One, Finding Dory and Zootopia (Zootropolis in some other territiories)) 2017 is not even half way through and we have 2 already broken through the $1 billion figure this year (Beauty and the Beast and Fate of the Furious (aka Fast 8)) and there are several films due out this year that potentially could break through this too.
I’d bet my house that Star Wars : The Last Jedi breaks it (and quickly) and other films that could do it are Guardians of the Galaxy 2, Spiderman: Homecoming, Thor: Ragnarok, Despicable Me 3, Wonder Woman, Justice League and Transformers : The Last Knight. By the end of this year we could have witnessed the highest number of films to break through in a single calendar year.
The goalposts have moved and will continue to do so.. So, for Hollywood is it now a case of the $2 billion dollar question..?