For most of 1998, it seemed inconceivable that any studio other than Paramount
would walk away with the most box office sales for the year. But with a
steady flow of product, and numerous hits, Buena
Vista sprinted ahead of the Titanic
studio in the final weeks of the year to pull off the impossible. Most
of the success came from the summer and holiday periods as for the second
time in three years, the studio released five $100M+ blockbusters in the
same year. Buena Vista can also claim the highest grossing new film of
1998 with Armageddon.
A hefty slate of 19 new pictures helped bring in over $1 billion in ticket
sales - a common feat for Disney.
Buena Vista released three clunkers during the first four months of the year - Deep Rising ($10.9M), Krippendorf's Tribe ($7.5M), and Meet the Deedles ($4.3M). The studio's first number one debut of the year came in May with Spike Lee's He Got Game which opened with just $7.6M but was enough to top the box office in a weak frame. Then, one by one, the heavy artillery came out allowing Buena Vista to power its way past most other studios in market share by the end of summer. Robert Redford's The Horse Whisperer delivered $75.4M, Harrison Ford captured $74.3M with Six Days, Seven Nights, Mulan grossed $120.6M (20% more than the studio's last two summer toons), and finally Armageddon exploded over Independence Day weekend with a strong, but not stellar, $36.1M opening, displayed remarkable legs and eventually amassed $201.6M. Those four films collectively grossed $470M domestically and an amazing $630M overseas providing a flood of revenue to the Mouse House.
The fall brought a dry spell as two heavily promoted, expensive star vehicles bombed at the box office. Eddie Murphy's Holy Man took in just $12.1M challenging Best Defense for the right to be the star's biggest dud. Beloved, the long-awaited saga from Oprah Winfrey, also was rejected by moviegoers and earned just $22.7M.
But November brought the pivotal movie that made the industry realize that maybe Paramount could be beat for the market share crown. The Waterboy sacked movie fans everywhere and scored a $39.4M touchdown in its opening weekend setting a new monthly record. With Buena Vista's crowded holiday schedule still to come, it seemed as if the surprising success of the Adam Sandler comedy would be enough to put the studio over the top. November then brought Enemy of the State and A Bug's Life which have both become blockbusters and attracted consistently solid business through the holiday season. Together, Buena Vista's November trio should bring in nearly $450M domestically.
Other Buena Vista titles in 1998 included Mafia! ($19.8M), The Parent Trap ($66.3M), Simon Birch ($18.3M), I'll Be Home For Christmas ($12.2M), Mighty Joe Young ($28.1M in ten days), and the platform release of A Civil Action.