2023 was one of the worst years for the Walt Disney Company at the box office. Let’s take a look at each of this year’s theatrical releases, where things went wrong/right, and how 2024 could be different.

Credit: Marvel Studios

To say that 2023 was a rough year for the Walt Disney Company is an understatement. The world’s largest media company was faced with controversy due to its feud with Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, numerous layoffs, the SAG-AFTRA and WGA Strikes, the Jonathan Majors abuse trial, and countless conservatives attacking the company for being “too woke.”

If you want to see a physical statistic for this disappointing year, you’ll have to look no further than the box office. While Disney found plenty of success in its theme parks, like Walt Disney World Resort and Disneyland Resort, the studios’ 2023 box office haul was much smaller than expected.

Credit: Disney

Related: Disney Rejects Thousands, Park Nearly Sold Out For 2023

Despite Disney having four of the ten highest-grossing films of the year, 2023 can’t be seen as anything but a disappointment overall. Of the eight theatrical films they released, only half made a profit, meaning they more than doubled their budget. This stands in stark contrast to previous years, where this would seem commonplace.

So, let’s look deeper into all the major releases from different Disney studios in 2023, how well they did financially, and why they failed or succeeded.

Every Disney Film Released Theatrically in 2023

Credit: Pixar

In order to look at these films, they have been arranged by their total box office gross, or how much money they have made so far if they are still in theaters. These totals will be compared against their budgets to see just how much these movies made and whether they were successful for Disney.

We’ll also be looking at some of the critic scores for these films where necessary. Something worth noting: while Rotten Tomatoes is by no means the metric regarding whether a movie is good or not, it does give you a metric to see an overall view from critics and audiences and the discrepancies between them. Because of this, it will be used as a reference point.

Wish – Walt Disney Animation

Credit: Disney

Box Office Gross: $50.6 Million (so far)

Budget: $200 Million

The most recent film released on this list, Wish, was supposed to be the movie that not only returned Walt Disney Animation back to its glory days but also save Disney’s awful 2023. Of course, this isn’t what happened. Instead, Disney got its first certified “Rotten” film in 18 years with only a 50% rating on Rotten Tomatoes despite solid performances and gorgeous animation.

While the film is only in its second week at theaters, the $50.6 million gross is still disappointing. For something that was supposed to bring back the classic Disney Princess tale, there weren’t many people compelled to see the movie in theaters. However, don’t be surprised if it moves higher on this list and starts breaking records on Disney+.

Haunted Mansion – Walt Disney Pictures

Credit: Disney

Box Office Gross: $117.4 Million

Budget: $150 Million

Profit: -$32.6 Million

Personally, this one hurts the most. Despite boasting an incredible cast, including LaKeith Stanfield, Tiffany Haddish, Jamie Lee Curtis, Owen Wilson, Rosario Dawson, and Danny DeVito, it seems that no one wanted to see a family horror movie in the middle of summer. Not releasing Haunted Mansion in October is easily one of Disney’s biggest blunders of the year.

Another reason for the film bombing is the critic response. Haunted Mansion has a 37% rating on Rotten Tomatoes. Compare this to the audience score, which is a surprisingly high 84%. Still, one thing can never be doubted: Haunted Mansion 2023 is better than the Eddie Murphy adaptation.

The Marvels – Marvel Studios

Credit: Marvel Studios

Related: Disney Head Bob Iger Blames Pandemic for ‘The Marvels’ Failure, Wants More Executives

Box Office Gross: $187.8 Million (so far)

Budget: $274.8 Million

The final Marvel film released this year, The Marvels had a lot working against it. Not only was there fan backlash to the movie for multiple stupid reasons, but it was released at the tail end of the SAG-AFTRA strikes, meaning none of the stars (Brie Larson, Teyonnah Parris, and Iman Vellani) could promote the film.

This resulted in probably the most lackluster Marvel debut yet, grossing only around $46 million domestically. More than anything, The Marvels’ failure is due to a lack of publicity and a general exasperation surrounding superhero movies. On top of this, The Marvels doesn’t seem as important in the grand scheme of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Still, the film has garnered a passionate fanbase that wants to see it succeed.

Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny – LucasFilm

Credit: Lucasfilm

Box Office Gross: $383.9 Million

Budget: $300 Million

Profit: $83.9 Million

Disney and LucasFilm were really banking on people caring about Indiana Jones 15 years after the last movie came out. But they forgot one major thing: Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull (2008) wasn’t good. Still, Disney sunk $300 million into this film, making it one of the most expensive films ever.

In a year when audiences were picky about which films they were willing to see in theaters, it feels like Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny was set up for failure, needing to make $800 million or more to be considered a financial success. Any chance of continued success at the box office was swiftly destroyed by the 1-2 punch that was Barbie (2023) and Oppenheimer (2023).

Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania – Marvel Studios

Credit: Marvel Studios

Box Office Gross: $476 Million

Budget: $200 Million

Profit: $276 Million

Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania was easily the most significant critical disappointment for Marvel Studios this year, becoming the worst-reviewed film in Marvel Cinematic Universe history. On top of that, it is the worst-reviewed superhero film of 2023. That’s right. Worse than The Flash (2023) and Shazam! Fury of the Gods (2023).

Despite this, Quantumania is also one of Disney’s few successes this year, grossing well over double its budget. Still, this is disappointing compared to the previous Ant-Man films, which made more money on smaller budgets. It just goes to show you that flashier doesn’t always mean better.

Elemental – Pixar

Credit: Pixar

Box Office Gross: $495.9 Million

Budget: $200 Million

Profit: $295.9 Million

Of all the films released this year, Elemental had the most fascinating box office journey. Initially declared a flop since the film was only called “really good” by critics, something that’s only disappointing for Pixar, Elemental continued to build up steam due to word of mouth.

Because of its focus on the core relationship, incredible voice acting, and gorgeous animation, Elemental exceeded expectations and became the best underdog story of 2023, eventually becoming one of the most streamed movies on Disney+. It makes you wonder how well the film would have done if Disney and Pixar had advertised it well instead of making it look like a Zootopia (2016) rip-off.

The Little Mermaid – Walt Disney Pictures

Credit: Disney

Box Office Gross: $569.6 Million

Budget: $297 Million

Profit: $272.6 Million

Disney’s second-highest-grossing film this year, The Little Mermaid still didn’t hit the heights as Disney’s previous live-action remakes. For example, The Lion King (2019) and Aladdin (2019) grossed over a billion dollars at the international box office. The Little Mermaid barely made it past halfway.

That being said, it’s still a success in a year filled with disappointing box-office returns for every studio. The Little Mermaid is the seventh highest-grossing film of the year, right behind Sony’s Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse (2023).

Credit: Disney

Related: Disney Admits Heavy Financial Losses Due to ‘Woke’ Content, DeSantis Lawsuit

On top of this, the film was well-received by critics and audiences alike. Sure, the live-action Little Mermaid doesn’t capture the magic of the original, but there is still a lot to love about the film. First and foremost is Halle Bailey’s performance as Ariel. She truly knocks it out of the park, and her rendition of “Part of Your World” is arguably better than the original.

Some of Bailey’s other cast members stand out as well, including Melissa McCarthy as Ursula and Jonah Hauer-King as Prince Eric. That being said, I think we all could do without “The Scuttlebutt.”

Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 – Marvel Studios

Credit: Marvel Studios

Box Office Gross: $845.6 Million

Budget: $250 Million

Profit: $595.6 Million

Undoubtedly, Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 has been the high point for Disney and Marvel Studios this year. The film was the perfect combination of action, comedy, and heart. While some moments may not have been for everyone, no one can deny the incredible performances, specifically by Bradley Cooper as Rocket Racoon and Chukwudi Iwuji as The High Evolutionary.

A big thing going for Guardians 3 is that it wraps a beloved trilogy. The success of the Guardians of the Galaxy films has been the biggest surprise of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, proving that you can take a group of characters unknown to the greater public and make them care. This felt like an event that everyone had to see in theaters.

Credit: JamesGunn, Twitter

However, there are some negatives worth pointing out. At the top of the list is director James Gunn, who won’t be returning to Marvel Studios anytime soon since he is now Co-CEO and the creative mastermind for rival DC Studios. This means that the MCU will definitely have stronger competition in the near future.

Also, this will probably be the last time we see this particular gathering of everyone’s favorite team of ragtag space heroes. Multiple actors have confirmed that they will not be returning to reprise their roles. Hopefully, Marvel will be able to find similar success with the upcoming Thunderbolts (2025).

What About 20th Century Fox?

Credit: 20th Century Studios

Related: Fox’s ‘X-Men’ Will Return to Theaters Very Soon

Looking at this list, you’ll notice that films released by 20th Century Studios are not on this list. That’s because while Disney owns the studio, it is not really seen by the greater public as part of the Disney film slate. This means movies like The Boogeyman (2023), A Haunting in Venice (2023), and The Creator (2023) are not considered Disney films.

That being said, there is still a lot that Disney can learn from these movies. Mainly, all of these had budgets under $100 million. This made them much more likely to make back their budget and earn a profit. Particularly notable is The Boogeyman, which made $82.3 million on a $35 million budget.

What Can Disney Learn From 2023?

Credit: Disney

While 2023 was a tough year for the House of Mouse, this isn’t the first time Disney had a low period. It bounced back before, and it will likely bounce back again. The only way something can be determined a 100% failure is if you don’t learn from it. And the Walt Disney Company has plenty to learn from 2023.

For one, Disney has flooded theaters with way too many movies. While this isn’t just a Disney problem, every major studio has had an issue with too many superhero and blockbuster films this year, specifically ones that underperformed critically and financially. Now more than ever, audiences feel they must pick and choose what they see due to a lack of finances.

Credit: Lucasfilm

Also, every movie this year had a considerable budget, ranging from $150-300 million. This means a movie has to be a massive hit to succeed. Once again, audiences are being much more picky about what they see in theaters. The only movies that have really been “must-sees” at the theater this year were Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3Barbie, Oppenheimer, and The Super Mario Bros. Movie (2023). Everything else could wait until streaming.

Finally, there’s the issue of marketing. Yes, some movies were handicapped by the SAG-AFTRA and WGA Strikes, but the advertising for most of these films was lackluster, focusing on the brand or the prestige behind the film instead of what actually happened in the movie. Disney can no longer survive on brand name alone.

Will 2024 Be Any Better For Disney?

Credit: Pixar

2024 is already shaping up to be vastly different than 2023 for Disney. Instead of eight massive films with huge budgets, it looks like there will only be three movies released from the major studios: Inside Out 2 (2024), Deadpool 3 (2024), and Mufasa: The Lion King (2024). Considering these all come from massively successful franchises, they will likely be successful again.

On top of this, two significant blockbusters are coming from 20th Century Studios: Kingdom of the Planet of the Apes (2024) and Alien: Romulus (2024). Both come from massive franchises that have consistently shown creativity and success. Hopefully, this will be the case next year.

Credit: 20th Century Studios

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While the lack of movies is most likely due to production stopping during the Hollywood strikes, this is still an overall positive situation for Disney. CEO Bob Iger has often said he wants to focus on quality, not quantity. And it looks like 2024 will actually be a year where they get to do that.

What was your favorite film of 2023? What are you most looking forward to in 2024? Let Inside the Magic know in the comments down below!

 Without a doubt, 2023 has been one of the most disappointing years for Disney. Let’s take a look at the movies that made that happen. #DisneyAnimation #BoxOffice #Pixar #Marvel #MarvelStudios #MCU #GOTGV3 #Wish #TheMarvels #Elemental #HauntedMansion #InsideOut2 #WorstDisneyMovies  Read More