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Hollywood’s guessing game: Which Disney movie will top 2019?

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BETWEEN high-priced coffees and sushi, movie executives meeting in Las Vegas last week had one heated argument: Which Disney film will be the year’s top blockbuster?

Attendees at the annual CinemaCon show at Caesars Palace weren’t doing much gambling. But they did debate whether Avengers: Endgame, The Lion King, or Star Wars: Episode IX would lead the box office in 2019, according to Rich Gelfond, chief executive officer of Imax Corp.

It says something about Walt Disney Co.’s dominance in Hollywood that no other studio appears to have a shot at this prize. The Burbank, California-based company added to its film slate last month when it acquired 21st Century Fox, Inc.’s entertainment assets in a $71-billion deal.

CinemaCon attendees got a peek at clips from The Lion King and Endgame, helping them formulate opinions about their prospects. But Disney didn’t show any footage from Episode IX, which won’t be released until the end of the year.

For now, Avengers: Endgame has the edge. It’s forecast to take in $585 million during its domestic box office run, according to analysts at Evercore ISI Research. Episode IX will yield $551 million, while The Lion King is pegged at $495 million. But overseas ticket sales may tip the scales.

Early US demand for Avengers: Endgame tickets crashed websites and set records last Tuesday, suggesting it’s on track to deliver the biggest opening weekend of all time later this month. The Lion King opens on July 19 and the final installment of the current Star Wars trilogy is set for Dec. 20. — Bloomberg

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