LOS ANGELES, Dec 1, 2017 (BSS/AFP) - The thunderous success of "Thor: Ragnarok" has helped Walt Disney Studios become the first distributor in history to hit $5 billion in annual global box office sales three times, it said Thursday.
The superhero movie, made by Disney's Marvel subsidiary, is on the verge of surpassing $800 million worldwide, putting the company's haul for 2017 at $1.8 billion in North America and $3.2 billion abroad.
It is the third year in a row that the entertainment giant has passed the $5 billion benchmark, with its sure-fire biggest hit, "Star Wars: The Last Jedi," not due in theaters for another two weeks.
Last year was the first in which all five of Walt Disney Studios' top brands -- Disney, Walt Disney Animation Studios, Pixar Animation Studios, Marvel Studios and Lucasfilm -- released movies, giving the company an industry-first $7 billion box office.
Much of Disney's success this year has been due to its live-action remake of "Beauty and the Beast," the highest grossing film worldwide in 2017 with $1.3 billion.
It has been a record year for Marvel, which is celebrating its first hat-trick of $100 million-plus domestic openings, kicked off in May by "Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2" and followed a month later by "Spider-Man: Homecoming."
Those two films also passed $800 million worldwide, making the trifecta (including "Thor") a first for Marvel, with the parent company expected to account for half of the top 10 highest grossing films of 2017.
Pixar's "Coco" netted an $72.9 million for the five-day Thanksgiving period and is approaching $180 million worldwide while late 2016 releases "Moana" and "Rogue One: A Star Wars Story" bumped up 2017 takings by $561 million.
"The Last Jedi," which hits theaters on December 15, is widely expected to have the top domestic opening weekend of the year and cross the $1 billion mark.
The Walt Disney Company, the world's second largest media conglomerate behind Comcast, surprised investors earlier this month by missing Wall Street expectations for fourth quarter revenue and earnings.
But the company is expecting to bounce back as it expands its "Star Wars" franchise with a new trilogy and live-action TV series, and introduces streaming services to rival Netflix and Amazon.