Why audiences are only going to Disney movies

Julie Bikhman of Manhattan might buy the tickets, but when it comes to deciding what movie to see, her three young children are the ones calling the shots.

“We pick them,” her 11-year-old daughter Annie declares before heading into a screening of Disney’s live-action “The Lion King.”

“If it’s a Marvel movie, we know it’s going to be epic,” Annie’s twin sister Nina adds. “We know it will have a good story line and lots of action and adventure. Also, the villains are sick and there are a lot of plot twists.”

Annie and Nina weren’t born when audiences were first introduced to Disney’s “The Lion King” in 1994, but the two cajoled their mom and 14-year-old brother Nathaniel to AMC Lincoln Square on Wednesday to be among the first to see Simba’s grand return to the big screen. They loved the original cartoon and just couldn’t wait to see a dazzling, photo-realistic update of the classic Disney tale.

35 PHOTOS
'The Lion King' premiere: Red carpet arrivals
See Gallery
'The Lion King' premiere: Red carpet arrivals
HOLLYWOOD, CALIFORNIA - JULY 09: Eddie Cibrian and LeAnn Rimes with children during the premiere of Disney's "The Lion King" at Dolby Theatre on July 09, 2019 in Hollywood, California. (Photo by Jean Baptiste Lacroix/WireImage)
HOLLYWOOD, CALIFORNIA - JULY 09: Beyoncé attends the premiere of Disney's "The Lion King" at Dolby Theatre on July 09, 2019 in Hollywood, California. (Photo by Matt Winkelmeyer/Getty Images)
HOLLYWOOD, CALIFORNIA - JULY 09: (L-R) Blue Ivy Carter and Beyoncé attends the premiere of Disney's "The Lion King" at Dolby Theatre on July 09, 2019 in Hollywood, California. (Photo by Kevin Winter/Getty Images)
HOLLYWOOD, CALIFORNIA - JULY 09: Beyoncé attends the premiere of Disney's "The Lion King" at Dolby Theatre on July 09, 2019 in Hollywood, California. (Photo by Jean Baptiste Lacroix/WireImage)
HOLLYWOOD, CALIFORNIA - JULY 09: Jamie Foxx (C) attends the premiere of Disney's "The Lion King" at Dolby Theatre on July 09, 2019 in Hollywood, California. (Photo by Jon Kopaloff/FilmMagic)
HOLLYWOOD, CALIFORNIA - JULY 09: Tiffany Haddish attends the premiere of Disney's "The Lion King" at Dolby Theatre on July 09, 2019 in Hollywood, California. (Photo by Jon Kopaloff/FilmMagic)
HOLLYWOOD, CALIFORNIA - JULY 09: Alfre Woodard attends the premiere of Disney's "The Lion King" at Dolby Theatre on July 09, 2019 in Hollywood, California. (Photo by Matt Winkelmeyer/Getty Images)
HOLLYWOOD, CALIFORNIA - JULY 09: Kelly Rowland attends the premiere of Disney's "The Lion King" at Dolby Theatre on July 09, 2019 in Hollywood, California. (Photo by Matt Winkelmeyer/Getty Images)
HOLLYWOOD, CALIFORNIA - JULY 09: (L-R) Kelly Rowland and Titan Jewell Weatherspoon attend the premiere of Disney's "The Lion King" at Dolby Theatre on July 09, 2019 in Hollywood, California. (Photo by Jean Baptiste Lacroix/WireImage)
HOLLYWOOD, CALIFORNIA - JULY 09: Michelle Williams attends the premiere of Disney's "The Lion King" at Dolby Theatre on July 09, 2019 in Hollywood, California. (Photo by Jon Kopaloff/FilmMagic)
HOLLYWOOD, CALIFORNIA - JULY 09: Chiwetel Ejiofor attends the premiere of Disney's "The Lion King" at Dolby Theatre on July 09, 2019 in Hollywood, California. (Photo by Matt Winkelmeyer/Getty Images)
US actor Donald Glover arrives for the world premiere of Disney's "The Lion King" at the Dolby theatre on July 9, 2019 in Hollywood. (Photo by Robyn Beck / AFP) (Photo credit should read ROBYN BECK/AFP/Getty Images)
HOLLYWOOD, CALIFORNIA - JULY 09: Jon Favreau attends the premiere of Disney's "The Lion King" at Dolby Theatre on July 09, 2019 in Hollywood, California. (Photo by Matt Winkelmeyer/Getty Images)
HOLLYWOOD, CALIFORNIA - JULY 09: Yara Shahidi attends the premiere of Disney's "The Lion King" at Dolby Theatre on July 09, 2019 in Hollywood, California. (Photo by Jean Baptiste Lacroix/WireImage)
HOLLYWOOD, CALIFORNIA - JULY 09: Normani attends the premiere of Disney's "The Lion King" at Dolby Theatre on July 09, 2019 in Hollywood, California. (Photo by Jean Baptiste Lacroix/WireImage)
HOLLYWOOD, CALIFORNIA - JULY 09: (L-R) Kirsten Corley, Chance The Rapper, and Kensli Bennett attend the premiere of Disney's "The Lion King" at Dolby Theatre on July 09, 2019 in Hollywood, California. (Photo by Kevin Winter/Getty Images)
HOLLYWOOD, CALIFORNIA - JULY 09: (L-R) Chance The Rapper and Kensli Bennett attends the premiere of Disney's "The Lion King" at Dolby Theatre on July 09, 2019 in Hollywood, California. (Photo by Kevin Winter/Getty Images)
HOLLYWOOD, CALIFORNIA - JULY 09: Daryl Sabara and Meghan Trainor attend the premiere of Disney's "The Lion King" at Dolby Theatre on July 09, 2019 in Hollywood, California. (Photo by Matt Winkelmeyer/Getty Images)
HOLLYWOOD, CALIFORNIA - JULY 09: LeAnn Rimes attends the premiere of Disney's "The Lion King" at Dolby Theatre on July 09, 2019 in Hollywood, California. (Photo by Matt Winkelmeyer/Getty Images)
HOLLYWOOD, CALIFORNIA - JULY 09: Seth Rogen attends the premiere of Disney's "The Lion King" at Dolby Theatre on July 09, 2019 in Hollywood, California. (Photo by Matt Winkelmeyer/Getty Images)
HOLLYWOOD, CALIFORNIA - JULY 09: Billy Eichner attends the premiere of Disney's "The Lion King" at Dolby Theatre on July 09, 2019 in Hollywood, California. (Photo by Matt Winkelmeyer/Getty Images)
HOLLYWOOD, CALIFORNIA - JULY 09: (L-R) Chloe Bailey and Halle Bailey attend the premiere of Disney's "The Lion King" at Dolby Theatre on July 09, 2019 in Hollywood, California. (Photo by Jon Kopaloff/FilmMagic)
HOLLYWOOD, CALIFORNIA - JULY 09: Yvette Nicole Brown attends the premiere of Disney's "The Lion King" at Dolby Theatre on July 09, 2019 in Hollywood, California. (Photo by Matt Winkelmeyer/Getty Images)
HOLLYWOOD, CALIFORNIA - JULY 09: Skai Jackson attends the premiere of Disney's "The Lion King" at Dolby Theatre on July 09, 2019 in Hollywood, California. (Photo by Matt Winkelmeyer/Getty Images)
US actor Keegan-Michael Key and his wife US producer Elisa Pugliese arrive for the world premiere of Disney's "The Lion King" at the Dolby theatre on July 9, 2019 in Hollywood. (Photo by Robyn Beck / AFP) (Photo credit should read ROBYN BECK/AFP/Getty Images)
HOLLYWOOD, CALIFORNIA - JULY 09: Zooey Deschanel attends the premiere of Disney's "The Lion King" at Dolby Theatre on July 09, 2019 in Hollywood, California. (Photo by Matt Winkelmeyer/Getty Images)
HOLLYWOOD, CALIFORNIA - JULY 09: Chrissy Metz attends the premiere of Disney's "The Lion King" at Dolby Theatre on July 09, 2019 in Hollywood, California. (Photo by Jean Baptiste Lacroix/WireImage)
HOLLYWOOD, CALIFORNIA - JULY 09: Patrick Starrr attends the premiere of Disney's "The Lion King" at Dolby Theatre on July 09, 2019 in Hollywood, California. (Photo by Matt Winkelmeyer/Getty Images)
HOLLYWOOD, CALIFORNIA - JULY 09: Raven-Symoné attends the premiere of Disney's "The Lion King" at Dolby Theatre on July 09, 2019 in Hollywood, California. (Photo by Matt Winkelmeyer/Getty Images)
HOLLYWOOD, CALIFORNIA - JULY 09: Willow Bay and Robert Iger attend the premiere of Disney's "The Lion King" at Dolby Theatre on July 09, 2019 in Hollywood, California. (Photo by Matt Winkelmeyer/Getty Images)
HOLLYWOOD, CALIFORNIA - JULY 09: Shahadi Wright Joseph Actress attends the premiere of Disney's "The Lion King" at Dolby Theatre on July 09, 2019 in Hollywood, California. (Photo by Matt Winkelmeyer/Getty Images)
HOLLYWOOD, CALIFORNIA - JULY 09: Florence Kasumba attends the premiere of Disney's "The Lion King" at Dolby Theatre on July 09, 2019 in Hollywood, California. (Photo by Matt Winkelmeyer/Getty Images)
HOLLYWOOD, CALIFORNIA - JULY 09: Eric Andre attends the premiere of Disney's "The Lion King" at Dolby Theatre on July 09, 2019 in Hollywood, California. (Photo by Matt Winkelmeyer/Getty Images)
HOLLYWOOD, CALIFORNIA - JULY 09: Maia Mitchell attends the premiere of Disney's "The Lion King" at Dolby Theatre on July 09, 2019 in Hollywood, California. (Photo by Matt Winkelmeyer/Getty Images)
HOLLYWOOD, CALIFORNIA - JULY 09: Logan Browning attends the premiere of Disney's "The Lion King" at Dolby Theatre on July 09, 2019 in Hollywood, California. (Photo by Jean Baptiste Lacroix/WireImage)
HIDE CAPTION
SHOW CAPTION
of
SEE ALL
BACK TO SLIDE

The sisters aren’t alone in their enthusiasm for the Disney empire. At a time when studios and movie theater owners are struggling to fill multiplexes, there’s at least one studio incentivizing audiences to get off their couches and head into theaters. Collectively, 3.5 out of every 10 tickets sold this year was for a Disney movie, and that number will climb even higher after “The Lion King” debuts this weekend. In the first sixth months of 2019, the studio has scored with the four biggest movies of the year at the domestic box office: “Avengers: Endgame” ($852 million), “Captain Marvel” ($426 million), “Toy Story 4” ($354 million), and “Aladdin” ($334 million). The only film that’s come within striking distance so far is Sony’s “Spider-Man: Far From Home” ($288 million), produced by the Disney-owned Marvel Studios.

To be sure, not all Disney callbacks are sure-fire hits. Tim Burton’s “Dumbo” brought back underwhelming box office receipts in March. The high-flying elephant was popularized by an 80-year-old cartoon, and, in retrospect, the character may have felt dated. And last year’s “Christopher Robin,” which ended its theatrical run with $197 million, likely won’t be inspiring any returns to the Hundred Acre Woods.

“When you think of the evolution of Disney, it’s been about building up these mega-franchises,” said Eric Handler, an analysts with MKM Partners. “They are great at identifying strong brands. Think about the acquisition of Pixar, then Marvel, and then Lucasfilm.”

Indeed, a number of strategic decisions have made Disney owner of everything from Thor to the Skywalkers to Princesses Anna and Elsa. That acquisition binge left the other Hollywood studios playing a desperate game of catch up. Audiences see the Disney brand as a guarantee of a good time in an era when movie tickets run a family of four more than $50. And that doesn’t include the cost of popcorn and soda.

RELATED: Top 25 highest-earning Christmas movies of all time

25 PHOTOS
25 top-earning Christmas movies of all time
See Gallery
25 top-earning Christmas movies of all time

25. ‘A Christmas Story’: $20.61 Million

One of the most beloved movies of the modern era, “A Christmas Story” is believed to have been produced on a budget of $4.4 million. It pulled in a respectable $20.6 million when it was released in 1983. Its impact, however, is priceless.

“A Christmas Story” follows 9-year-old Ralphie Parker’s (played by Peter Billingsley) quest for an impossible Christmas gift — an official Red Ryder Carbine-Action 200-Shot Range Model BB gun. According to Vanity Fair, the movie “forever changed the cozy, sentimental holiday-movie genre.” According to the publication, it made previous generations of holiday classics look archaic and campy in the process.

Where Are They Now? Former Child Stars Striking Hollywood Gold

(©MGM/UA/Kobal/REX/Shutterstock)

24. ‘Almost Christmas’: $42.07 Million

In 2016, “Almost Christmas” earned back its $17 million production budget with plenty to spare. The movie, which follows the drama of a fractured family together for the first time since losing the family matriarch, stars Danny Glover, Monique and Gabrielle Union. More than one dollar in three that the movie grossed was earned on opening weekend, when “Almost Christmas” peaked at No. 4.

(©Universal Studios/Kobal/REX/Shut)

23. ‘Krampus’: $42.73 Million

Rotten Tomatoes refers to 2015’s “Krampus” as “gory good fun for fans of non-traditional holiday horror.” Based on the tale of a boy who responds to continuous Christmas letdowns by conjuring up a terrifying holiday-themed demon, “Krampus” frightened audiences enough to reach No. 2 on opening weekend.

When you count the 30.6 percent of its worldwide gross that came from foreign theaters, “Krampus” earned more than $61.5 million on a budget of just $15 million.

Did ‘Krampus’ Make the List? Here Are the 13 Highest-Grossing Horror Films

(©Universal/Legendary/Kobal/REX/Sh)

22. ‘The Night Before’: $43.05 Million

In 2015, Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Seth Rogen — a familiar and successful comedy duo — waded into the holiday genre when they played two guys on a relentless search for the ultimate New York City Christmas party in “The Night Before.”

Written by Evan Goldberg and Jonathan Levine, the movie earned nearly $53 million — but only after you include worldwide earnings. “The Night Before” holds a respectable 65 percent on Rotten Tomatoes. It didn’t win any Oscars, but it was honored with a Golden Schmoes Awards nomination.

(©Columbia/Kobal/REX/Shutterstock)

21. ‘Arthur Christmas’: $46.46 Million

Although its domestic haul lands 2011’s “Arthur Christmas” on the bottom five of this list, its worldwide box office earnings are impressive to say the least. The movie earned 68.5 percent of its earnings — more than $100 million — at foreign theaters for a worldwide gross of $147.42 million.

The movie stars James McAvoy as the voice of Arthur, the clumsy son of Father Christmas. Its commercial success was backed up by critical acclaim — the movie was nominated for a Golden Globe. But, did it make the list of the top-grossing animated movies of all time?

(©Sony Animations/Kobal/REX/Shutte)

20. ‘The Preacher’s Wife’: $48.1 Million

In 1996, powerhouse actor Denzel Washington teamed up with Whitney Houston for “The Preacher’s Wife,” which tells the tale of a minister whose marriage to a church choir singer begins to unravel thanks to his hectic schedule and the pressures of their underprivileged neighborhood.

After peaking at No. 4 on opening weekend, the movie went on to earn just over than $48 million. It’s unclear how much it cost to produce the movie.

(©David Lee/Touchstone/Kobal/REX/S)

19. ‘This Christmas’: $49.12 Million

2007’s “This Christmas” was produced on a budget of just $13 million, yet it went on to earn just shy of $50 million when you count worldwide box office gross.

Based on the drama that surrounds a family’s first holiday reunion in several years, “This Christmas” stars Regina King, Columbus Short and Chris Brown. The movie, which was nominated for a BET Award, debuted at No. 2 on opening weekend.

(©Suzanne Tenner/Facilitator/Rainf)

18. ‘Tyler Perry’s A Madea Christmas’: $52.54 Million

Although it’s unclear how much it cost to make “Tyler Perry’s a Madea Christmas,” the movie debuted at No. 3 when it was released in 2013. The multi-talented Tyler Perry wrote, directed, produced and starred in the movie, which maintains a dismal 18 percent on Rotten Tomatoes.

Tyler Perry’s performance won a Razzie (Worst Actress) — an award that filmmakers generally want to avoid — and was nominated for five more, including Worst Picture. Even still, it is the first film on this list to break the $50 million mark.

(©The Tyler Perry Company/Tyler Pe)

17. ‘Office Christmas Party’: $54.77 Million

Although “Office Christmas Party” never broke the $55 million mark in the U.S., the movie took in most of its earnings — nearly $60 million — in foreign theaters for a worldwide total of almost $115 million.

The 2016 flick stars Jason Bateman and Olivia Munn as banker siblings whose rivalry leads to a massive Christmas party gone awry. The movie was the product of six writers and two directors.

(©Paramount/Kobal/REX/Shutterstock)

16. ‘Bad Santa’: $60.06 Million

Many actors have taken on the hefty role of Santa Claus, but none quite like Billy Bob Thornton in 2003’s “Bad Santa.” Thornton plays a degenerate con artist who doubles as a mall Santa who, along with his criminal elf sidekick, plan to use their jobs as cover for a department store robbery. Add Bernie Mac and an adorable kid, and you’ve got one of history’s raunchiest Christmas movies.

Foreign audiences added more than $16 million to the film’s domestic gross, which more than tripled its $23 million budget when you count receipts from the global box office.

(©Tracy Bennett/Dimension/Kobal/REO)

15. ‘Scrooged’: $60.33 Million

In 1988, “Scrooged” put a modern twist on the timeless Charles Dickens classic, “A Christmas Carol.” Beloved comedy heavyweight Bill Murray takes on the role of a heartless and cynical television executive who follows three ghosts through a journey of personal redemption.

“Scrooged” earned roughly $60.33 million at the domestic box office, and $13.03 million of that haul came on opening weekend alone. It was also nominated for an Academy Award for Best Makeup and also won a BMI Film and TV Award.

(©Paramount/Kobal/REX/Shutterstock)

14. ‘Jingle All the Way’: $60.6 Million

In 1996, comedians Phil Hartman and Sinbad joined Hollywood action hero Arnold Schwarzenegger in “Jingle All the Way.” The movie pits Schwarzenegger against a mob of shoppers as he scrambles to get his son the year’s hot Christmas toy.

“Jingle All the Way” barely earned back its $60 million production budget with a little shy of a $60.6 million haul at domestic theaters. Its worldwide gross, however, more than doubled its returns. The movie earned $69.24 million internationally for a worldwide total of nearly $129.83 million. It took in $12.11 million on opening weekend alone.

Arnold Schwarzenegger and More: The Richest Action Stars of All Time and Their Top-Grossing Films

(©20th Century Fox/Kobal/REX/Shutt)

13. ‘The Best Man Holiday’: $70.53 Million

In 2013’s “The Best Man Holiday,” old college friends reunite for the holidays 15 years after graduating, and old drama — and crushes — are rekindled. Starring Monica Calhoun and Morris Chestnut, the movie became one of the few Christmas flicks ever to gross more than $70 million.

Produced on a budget of just $17 million, “The Best Man Holiday” peaked at No. 2 on opening weekend and went on to gross nearly $73 million worldwide.

(©Universal/Blackmaled Prods./Sean)

12. ‘Christmas Vacation’: $71.32 Million

Chevy Chase returned to the “National Lampoon” franchise as Clark Griswold in 1989’s “Christmas Vacation.” What should be a pleasant Christmas celebration turns into a catastrophe on every level.

The John Hughes film earned nearly $71.3 million at the domestic box office. It ranked No. 2 on opening weekend when it earned $11.7 million. It is the second highest-grossing movie in the “National Lampoon” franchise — only “Animal House” earned more at the box office.

(©Warner Bros/Kobal/REX/Shutterstock)

11. ‘Fred Claus’: $72 Million

Vince Vaughn plays Fred Claus in the namesake movie, which tells the story of Santa’s bitter older brother who is forced to move to the North Pole. The powerhouse cast also includes Kathy Bates and Paul Giamatti.

The movie earned more than $72 million at the domestic box office when it was released in 2007. It took in another $25.83 million at foreign theaters for a worldwide haul of nearly $98 million.

(©Jaap Buitendijk/Warner Bros./Kob)

10. ‘Christmas With the Kranks’: $73.78 Million

Tim Allen, Jamie Lee Curtis and Dan Aykroyd starred in 2004’s “Christmas With the Kranks.” The movie earned nearly $74 million on a production budget of $60 million.

Written by Chris Columbus and based on a novel by John Grisham, the film portrays a raucous, last-minute Christmas celebration. The movie peaked at No. 3 on opening weekend when it earned $21.57 million in theaters. In all, “Christmas With the Kranks” grossed more than $96.57 million worldwide.

Gotta Start Somewhere: 25 Celebrities Who Got Their Big Break in Box Office Hits

(©Zade Rosenthal/Columbia/Revolution)

9. ‘The Nightmare Before Christmas’: $75.09 Million

Tim Burton’s “The Nightmare before Christmas” earned just over $50 million when it was first released in 1993, but five subsequent releases in the 2000s pushed the movie’s total earnings beyond $75 million.

The movie is animated in the creepy claymation that’s unique to Burton’s trademark style. It follows the culture clash that ensues when the King of Halloween Town discovers Christmas Town. The movie features Catherine O’Hara and Chris Sarandon. It was nominated for an Oscar for Best Effects.

(©Touchstone/Kobal/REX/Shutterstock)

8. ‘Die Hard’: $83.01 Million

Bruce Willis and Alan Rickman put a new spin on Christmas films with “Die Hard” in 1988. The movie earned more than $83 million dollars at the domestic box office and nearly $141 million worldwide. One of the most celebrated action movies of all time, “Die Hard” was nominated for four Oscars.

With the Christmas season as the movie’s backdrop, the film follows the exploits of NYPD Officer John McClane — a reluctant hero trapped in a Los Angeles skyscraper under siege by diabolical terrorists. After killing a terrorist and upgrading his weaponry, McClane delivers the bad guy’s body — complete with a Santa hat — to the surviving terrorists with the written message: “Now I have a machine gun: Ho, Ho, Ho.” It’s been an ironic Christmas classic ever since.

(©20th Century Fox/Kobal/REX/Shutterstock)

7. ‘Four Christmases’: $120.15 Million

“Four Christmases,” starring Vince Vaughn and Reese Witherspoon, was released in 2008. It follows a couple as they make separate visits to all their divorced parents on Christmas.

The movie took in more than $120 million at the U.S. box office. When factoring in worldwide ticket sales, it earned more than $163.73 million. Witherspoon was nominated for a Kids’ Choice Award for the film, and the movie also won a BMI Film & TV Award.

(©New Line/Kobal/REX/Shutterstock)

6. ‘A Christmas Carol’ (2009): $137.86 million

Filmmakers released their own versions of the Charles Dickens classic “A Christmas Carol” in 1938 and 1951, but it wasn’t until 2009 that the tale struck box office gold.

The animated version starring Jim Carrey earned almost $138 million at the domestic box office that year and more than $325 million worldwide. “A Christmas Carol” earned more than $30 million on opening weekend alone. The movie, a classic tale of self-redemption, debuted at No. 1 in 3,683 theaters.

Those numbers might sound phenomenal — until you realize that the movie cost $200 million to produce. It stands out as being one of the biggest holiday films of all time, and also one of the biggest price-to-earnings flops.

(©Moviestore/REX/Shutterstock)

5. ‘The Santa Clause’: $144.83 Million

In 1994, Tim Allen and Judge Reinhold teamed up in a story about a man who has to take on the role of Santa Claus after accidentally killing the real St. Nick. It would go on to become the No. 5 highest-grossing Christmas movie of all time when you don’t include sequels — which really boosted Tim Allen’s Hollywood star power.

“The Santa Clause,” which earned more than $144.83 million domestically and combined for nearly $190 million worldwide, cost just $22 million to make. It did better than any other PG-rated movie that year, and was the fourth highest-grossing movie of the year behind “Forrest Gump,” “The Lion King” and “True Lies.” It earned $19.32 million just on opening weekend.

(©Attila Dory/Walt Disney/Kobal/RE)

4. ‘Elf’: $173.4 Million

In 2003, Will Ferrell portrayed a human-sized elf whose penchant for inadvertent mayhem resulted in his exile from the North Pole to find his long-lost and grumpy father, played by James Caan.

The movie earned more than $173 million at the domestic box office and another $47.04 million in foreign theaters for a worldwide total of $220.44 million. It was the seventh highest-grossing movie of 2003 and that year’s No. 1 PG movie. It earned $31.11 million on opening weekend alone.

This modern classic is “Certified Fresh” on Rotten Tomatoes with a score of 84 percent, with one reviewer summing it up as “a spirited, good-natured family comedy.”

(©Alan Markfield/New Line Prods./K)

3. ‘The Polar Express’: $185.62 Million

“The Polar Express” grossed $162.78 million when it was first released in 2004, but it pulled in another $20 million-plus after a dozen re-releases. It earned another $124.14 million in foreign theaters for a worldwide total of $309.76 million.

Silver screen veteran Tom Hanks performed voice work for six characters in this animated Warner Brothers holiday film, which follows a young boy on a fantastic adventure to the North Pole. It was the highest-grossing G-rated movie of 2004. And, it was nominated for three Oscars: Sound, Sound Editing and Best Original Song.

(©Castle Rock/Shangri-La/Kobal/REX)

2. ‘How the Grinch Stole Christmas’: $260.04 Million

Director Ron Howard’s interpretation of “How the Grinch Stole Christmas” took in more than $260 million in 2000 — $345.14 million worldwide. Jim Carrey assumed the role of the Grinch, a conniving anti-Christmas menace bent on ruining the holiday for the Whos in Dr. Seuss’ Whoville.

The movie earned more than doubled its production budget of $123 million and earned more than any other Dr. Seuss movie in history. It won an Oscar for Best Makeup and was nominated for two others. It ranks No. 98 on the list of the highest-grossing movies at the domestic box office.

Did You Know? These Box Office Hits Were Actually Based on Books

(©Melinda Sue Gordon/Imagine Ent/K)

1. ‘Home Alone’: $285.8 Million

When it comes to Christmas blockbusters, there’s “Home Alone” and there’s everything else. The biggest Christmas movie of all time, it grossed more than $285 million at the domestic box office and nearly $476.7 million worldwide. Adjusted for inflation, the movie earned nearly $605 million in the U.S. alone, earning the holiday classic the No. 40 spot on the list of history’s most successful movies. It was the highest-grossing movie of 1990, beating out “Ghost,” “Pretty Woman” and “Dances With Wolves” — all on a production budget of $18 million.

The movie, which launched the career of child star Macaulay Culkin,follows the exploits of young Kevin McCallister who learns to be careful what he wishes for when his family unwittingly leaves him behind when they embark on a family Christmas trip to Paris. Joe Pesci and Daniel Stern play a duo of hapless burglars that terrorize Kevin, who then returns the favor with a series of elaborate and effective boobie traps.

Up Next: Highest-Grossing Movie Franchises of 2017

(©Moviestore/REX/Shutterstock)

HIDE CAPTION
SHOW CAPTION
of
SEE ALL
BACK TO SLIDE

The first half of the year has been light on competition, but industry prognosticators are optimistic that the back half of 2019 will be favorable for other studios. Universal’s “Fast & Furious” spinoff “Hobbs & Shaw” looks promising to round out summer, while “It Chapter Two” and “Joker” are expected to boost fall revenues for Warner Bros. Over the holidays, Paramount has “Terminator: Dark Fate,” and Sony is unveiling another “Jumanji” sequel.

Still, there’s a reason why Disney seems to be far ahead of its rival studios this year. Starting with its first theatrical release in 1937 of “Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs,” the studio created by Walt Disney has staked its reputation on family fun and squeaky-clean escapism. Some analysts say that Disney releases — particularly, the reboots of classic animated films — are resonating now because audiences are looking for a break from dreary headlines and the bitter political animosity that has fissured the nation under the Trump administration.

Even the lyrics of “The Lion King’s” signature songs: “Hakuna Matata” and “Can You Feel the Love Tonight,” seem to harken back to simpler times, when you could shrug away all your worries and bask in pure happiness. It’s a happy-go-lucky sentiment that is almost impossible to achieve when we’re just a CNN chyron away from the next Beltway scandal or standoff.

“With those movies you want the communal experience because you like feeling the excitement around you,” Handler said. “Just think about when you hear ‘Hakuna Matata,’ you know everyone is going to be giddy. When I’ve seen ‘Star Wars’ films, there’s nothing that gets audiences excited as the John Williams theme.”

The other reason that Disney movies are standing out is that the studio has managed to do what “peak TV” has: to make them appointment viewing. Other major studio releases this year such as “Men in Black: International,” “Godzilla: King of the Monsters” and “The Secret Life of Pets 2” never became water-cooler events like “Avengers: Endgame” and “Captain Marvel.” Christopher Torres, a 22-year-old New Yorker, called it a “cultural obligation” to see “Toy Story 4.”

“I have to see how the story ends,” says Torres, who frequents movies with his friend, the 20-year old Camille Hermida-Fuentes. The pair said when they are deciding what movie to see in theaters, they factor in the studio that produced it, the directors that made it, and the hype around the trailer.

21 PHOTOS
'Toy Story 4': Actors who voice characters
See Gallery
'Toy Story 4': Actors who voice characters

Producer Mark Nielsen, Kristen Schaal, Director Josh Cooley, Tony Hale, Producer Jonas Rivera, Tom Hanks, Annie Potts, Wallace Shawn, John Ratzenberger, Tim Allen, Christina Hendricks, Keanu Reeves, Ally Maki, Keegan-Michael Key, Bonnie Hunt, Blake Clark and Carl Weathers attend the world premiere of Disney and Pixar's TOY STORY 4 at the El Capitan Theatre in Hollywood, CA on Tuesday, June 11, 2019.

(Photo by Alberto E. Rodriguez/Getty Images for Disney)

Tom Hanks voices Sheriff Woody 

(Photo by Jordi Vidal/Getty Images)

Tim Allen voices Buzz Lightyear

(Photo by Alberto E. Rodriguez/Getty Images for Disney)

Annie Potts voices Bo Peep

(Photo by Amanda Edwards/WireImage)

Tony Hale voices Forky

(Photo by GP Images/Getty Images for Disney Studios)

Keegan-Michael Key and Jordan Peele voice carnival toys Ducky and Bunny 

(Photo by Jason LaVeris/FilmMagic)

Christina Hendricks voices vintage doll Gabby Gabby

(Photo by Axelle/Bauer-Griffin/FilmMagic)

Keanu Reeves voices '70s-inspired action figure from Canada, Duke Caboom

(Photo by Jesse Grant/Getty Images for Disney)

Ally Maki voices mini police officer Giggle McDimples

(Photo by Michael Tran/FilmMagic)

Joan Cusack voices cowgirl Jessie

(Photo by Vera Anderson/WireImage)

Bonnie Hunt voices purple-haired rag doll Dolly

(Photo by Amanda Edwards/WireImage)

Kristen Schaal voices blue plastic triceratops Trixie

(Photo by Amanda Edwards/WireImage)

Wallace Shawn voices dinosaur Rex

(Photo by Michael Tran/FilmMagic)

John Ratzenberger voices plastic pig Hamm

(Photo by Michael Tran/FilmMagic)

Blake Clark voices Slinky Dog

(Photo credit should read VALERIE MACON/AFP/Getty Images)

Estelle Harris voices Mrs. Potato Head

(Photo by Tibrina Hobson/FilmMagic)

Don Rickles voices Mr. Potato Head using old audio

(Photo by: Andrew Lipovsky/NBC/NBCU Photo Bank via Getty Images)

Mel Brooks voices Melephant Brooks

(Photo by Emma McIntyre/Getty Images for TCM)

Carol Burnett voices Chairol Burnett

(Photo by Steve Granitz/WireImage)

Carl Reiner voices Carl Reineroceros 

(Photo by Tibrina Hobson/Getty Images)

Betty White voices Bitey White

(Photo by: Paul Drinkwater/NBC/NBCU Photo Bank via Getty Images)

HIDE CAPTION
SHOW CAPTION
of
SEE ALL
BACK TO SLIDE

And theaters are going all in, often rolling out all the stops to reinforce the notion that Disney releases are “events.” For the opening weekend of “The Lion King,” B&B Theatres, a family-owned chain, unveiled a specialized menu with culinary nods to the film (Grubs and Dirt Brownie Sundae, Hakuna Matata Breeze slushee and Pride Rock Burger to name a few) and partnered with the Kansas City Zoo in bringing lions, warthogs, lemurs, baboons and other animals that can be seen in the savanna.

“We can’t do it for them all, but we handpick 12 to 15 movies we’re going to do something extra for,” said Brock Bagby, executive VP of B&B Theatres. “Obviously from the box office you can see it’s turning to more event-type films. what we’re trying to do is create event-type venues.”

Bagby recalls going to see the original “Lion King” with his parents 25 years ago. Now that he has children of his own, he wants to take them with their grandparents to see the revamped cartoon.

“The biggest thing Disney does is make every movie a four-quadrant movie, trying to get every generation with every film,” Bagby said. “That’s why you see such massive grosses. You get someone from age 3 to 93 to see a movie. That’s the biggest thing they do differently.”

“For the most part, people want something they are familiar with,” Bagby added. “It’s easier to sell that. You can see at this year’s box office that’s what audiences are so receptive to.”

Disney may not be able to maintain this momentum forever. The studio’s banner year at the box office also coincides with the culmination of some of its biggest brands. Marvel will continue rolling out superhero tentpoles, but some of its mightiest heroes hung up their shields after the epic finale that was “Avengers: Endgame.” The studio will also likely return to a galaxy far, far away even after “Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker,” but “Solo: A Star Wars Story” proved that not all of George Lucas’ characters have the Midas touch.

Still, given the studio’s track record, it’s foolish to bet against Disney.

“Every time there’s a Disney movie, I’ll try to see it because they’re always good,” said Hermida-Fuentes. “Part of it is the reputation and how big their name is. They are well-made, feel-good movies.”

Read Full Story