Hollywood is a numbers game. Box-office returns. Ticket presales. TV ratings. Streaming data. Repeat viewership. Sequels, sequels, sequels.
Of course, there’s tremendous artistry and craft amid those numbers, and the holy grail is to get them and that Tomatometer score to move in the same direction: up. (Exhibit A: Avatar. Exhibit B: The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King. Both proof that critically acclaimed entertainment can also drum up mega moolah.)
The year 2019, however, will go down in history as the year when those numbers went atomic. More records were shattered. More milestones reached. More benchmarks set. Higher, further, faster, you say? There’s a reason Captain Marvel — and MCU fandom — uses that tagline as both a mantra and a battle cry. This year, like Carol Danvers, everything blasted through the stratosphere.
Herewith, the year in numbers:
Avengers: Endgame upends the game
Where to start? Just as Thanos snapped out half of all life in the universe, so did the MCU’s fourth Avengers film wipe out virtually every box-office record in existence. Among the most bombastic? It notched the biggest opening weekend in history, becoming the first film to break a billion dollars on arrival — $1.2 billion worldwide, to be exact. It also broke the record for the most money a film ever made in a single day in North America — $157 million. (To put things in perspective: 20 years ago, one of the top hits of 1999, The Mummy, made $155 million domestically during its entire theatrical run.) By the end of Avengers: Endgame’s own theatrical run, the film left everyone else in the dust: It’s now the highest-grossing movie in history, with $2.79 billion worldwide.
Speaking of Captain Marvel ...
The Brie Larson-headlined film already scored a massive milestone by being the first MCU movie anchored by a solo female superhero. This year it would shatter more glass ceilings: Captain Marvel obliterated the record for the biggest opening weekend for a female-led film, with $455 million worldwide. It would go on to become the first female superhero film to crack a billion dollars: $1.12 billion.
Joker gets the last laugh
Todd Phillips’ gritty take on the origins of the Clown Prince of Crime was a massive gamble. There was no Batman in it. It didn’t really resemble a conventional comic book movie. It dropped just three years after audiences got a new version of Joker (Jared Leto’s Suicide Squad Big Bad). And most critically, it was standing in the shadow of Heath Ledger’s colossal, celebrated portrayal of the character. The film also arrived amid controversy over its violent content, and under a shroud of fear that it might inspire real-life violence. Thankfully, opening weekend came without incident, and the film’s coffers slowly started to fill. It’s now the biggest R-rated film of all time, and the first R-rated film to earn a billion dollars: $1.06 billion and counting.
Aquaman blows everyone out of the water
Things weren’t going too well for the DCEU when this fella washed in: Aquaman was the first DC movie released after Justice League flopped, and many wondered whether it was too late to save the struggling superhero universe. Well, it was anything but a fish out of water. Although it was technically a 2018 film, released in December last year, Aquaman’s grosses truly racked up in 2019. At $1.14 billion worldwide, Aquaman is now the highest-earning DC film of all time, sailing past The Dark Knight Rises.
Game of Thrones ends its watch with a bang
Has there been a series finale more eagerly anticipated than Game of Thrones’? Apparently not. After mercilessly keeping viewers waiting for the arrival of its final season, and then revealing that the season would contain only six episodes, HBO went out on a high note: Game of Thrones’ series finale racked up the biggest live viewership in the network’s history. The live episode pulled in 13.6 million viewers, up 200,000 from HBO’s previous record holder — The Sopranos’ Season 4 premiere in 2002. Paging Hot Pie! Some pies to celebrate, please!
Frozen II ices the competition
When you’re a juggernaut franchise like Frozen, you can chill out. That’s because you’re guaranteed to smash records. The only thing now is: by how much? The first Frozen already stands as one of the biggest animated movies of all time, at $1.27 billion. Frozen II seems well on that trajectory. Even before arriving in theaters, it had already broken the record for the biggest advance ticket sales for an animated film. And after it dropped on Nov. 22, the film notched the biggest global opening of all time for an animated film, with $350 million.
Stranger Things is still flipping things upside down
We can’t decide what’s more terrifying: The Mind Flayer 2.0 or Scoops Ahoy’s work uniforms. But this much we know — the buzz-hogging show continues to slay (flay?), creating both viral moments (once more, with feeling, Dustin) and a tremendous platform for inclusion (more Robin, please). 2019 would prove to be a banner year for both the show and Netflix: Stranger Things 3 is now Netflix's most-watched original series ever, viewed by more than 60 million households in its first month.
But Baby Yoda count out you must not
Alas, the Mind Flayer ain’t no match for a little green toddler. Baby Yoda is clearly the breakout star of Disney+’s insta-hit The Mandalorian, spurring merch and chatter over whether the kiddo might pop up elsewhere in that galaxy far, far away. The show is a bona fide smash: Less than two weeks after its debut, it zipped past Stranger Things as the most-watched original streaming series ever, garnering 100.3 million “demand expressions” (that’s fancy talk for how numbers peeps track engagement and viewership of a series). That leaves us with just one burning question: Is Baby Yoda secretly a Gremlin? You must unlearn what you have learned!