“Aquaman” is swimming in ticket sales — and US movie theaters are ringing up yet another year for the history books.
The superhero action flick reeled in $67.4 million last weekend, driving North America’s total film 2018 receipts to $11.381 billion as of Monday, according to Box Office Mojo. That edged past the previous all-time record of $11.378 billion in movie tickets for all of 2016.
Also helping 2018 vault over the top was Disney’s “Mary Poppins Returns,” despite a weekend opening worth just $22.2 million. The sequel, which stars Emily Blunt as the exacting nanny, edged past the $21 million opening for Paramount’s “Bumblebee,” the latest in the “Transformers” franchise, which has garnered surprisingly strong reviews.
The collective gross of $111.2 million for last weekend’s three box-office leaders wasn’ t stellar. By comparison, last year’s top three films over the pre-Christmas weekend brought in $127.7 million.
Still, it was enough to put 2018 on top — thanks to a trio of superhero blockbusters earlier this year: “Black Panther” ($700.1 million), “Avengers: Infinity War” ($678.8 million) and “Incredibles 2” ($608.6 million).
All three were produced by Disney, which last weekend broke its own industry record by reaching $3 billion in North American film receipts for the year.
That has the Mouse House more than 40 percent ahead of runner-up studios Universal and Warner Bros., each with a collective gross of $1.7 billion.
The year’s record results also cheered competing studios and theater owners, which face stepped-up competition from Netflix, Amazon and Apple.
To be sure, streaming services have succeeded at keeping moviegoers at home.
Box Office Mojo put the number of movie tickets sold year to date at 1.25 billion — down 5.3 percent from the 1.32 billion sold in 2016.
Nevertheless, Hollywood has managed to grow not only by increasing ticket prices but seeking out wider audiences.
Even before the February release of “Black Panther,” John Fithian, chief executive of the National Association of Theatre Owners, had praised Disney’s gambit.
“They lay down a $200 million bet that a minority cast can appeal to a majority of Americans,” he said.
The movie with a mostly black cast recouped its entire budget on opening weekend, then went on to gross $1.35 billion worldwide.
On a more modest scale, “Crazy Rich Asians” has returned six times its $30 million budget since a mid-August release.
The year also saw the industry breathing new life into months previously considered dead zones.
“Black Panther” surprised many by becoming the top-grossing movie of any year to be released outside the summer and December holidays.
In October, another month considered a moviegoing wasteland, “Venom” and “A Star is Born” demonstrated “Black Panther’s” success with a traditionally shunned release date wasn’t a fluke.
The October releases already have box office rankings of No. 10 and No. 11, respectively, each with a gross in excess of $200 million.