Five years ago Steven Spielberg and George Lucas, the two Hollywood titans, delivered what many took to be a eulogy for the cinema.

The traditional film industry, they said, was approaching a "meltdown," undercut by internet streaming services like Netflix, Hulu and Amazon Prime Video, as well as by studios’ over-reliance on superhero movies.

However, it turns out the men who gave the world Star Wars and Indiana Jones, may have misjudged the audience.

Instead of a meltdown Hollywood is on track to finish 2018 with an all-time record haul at the box office, both in the United States and globally. Against all odds, more people than ever are going to the movies.

It was a record summer, a record Thanksgiving, and a record Christmas looks set to put the annual North American box office take over $12 billion for the first time, up more than 10 per cent on last year. Globally, annual box office receipts are up 3.5 per cent.

Aquaman, played by Jason Momoa. The film has now grossed more than $550 million worldwide

On Christmas Day, Aquaman, the new Warner Bros comic book film, took $22 million. Over the five days leading up to Christmas it took $105 million, meaning that it is one of the most successful festive openings of recent years – bar Avatar and Star Wars: The Force Awakens.

Mary Poppins Returns took second place, with $11.6 million on Christmas Day. In its first week the remake of the 1964 classic has taken $50 million.

The success of the films broke records; the weekend before Christmas saw US box offices take $11.383 billion – breaking the previous record of $11.382, set in 2016.

Emily Blunt as Mary Poppins in Mary Poppins Returns.

The reason for the huge surge in the United States may have something to do with living in uncertain times, according to box office experts.

"Everybody’s been talking about how internet streaming would kill the movie star, but it hasn’t," said Paul Dergarabedian, senior media analyst for ComScore.

"It might be something in the zeitgeist. This happened in the Great Depression. When the going gets tough, people go to the movies. There’s certainly an air of uncertainty in the political arena, and in the world, at the moment. It’s escapism."

He added: "The key indicator for me is that a lot of movies actually had terrible reviews, but they still did great business. People decided they wanted to go the movies anyway. It’s just been an incredible year at the box office."

Venom, the superhero film, was panned by critics but did well at the box office

As an example, even Venom, a superhero movie critics panned as an "incoherent train wreck," made hundreds of millions of dollars at the box office.

There were also suggestions the movie-going trend could have been a reaction against the increasingly pervasive effect of social media and smartphones in people’s lives.

"Maybe the movie theatre is the only place you can go off the grid for real now," said Mr Dergarabedian. "People get nostalgic for going to the movies. It’s in our DNA."

Another factor was the decision by Hollywood studios to adjust their traditional "tent pole" strategy," which used to see each studio release it’s biggest mega-budget movie during the summer.

Instead, some of the most popular films of 2018 were released at other times of year.

Blockbusters also featured more diverse casts.

Danai Gurira in a scene from Marvel Studios' Black Panther

Black Panther, with an almost entirely black cast, became the highest grossing film of the year in North America, pulling in $700 million, despite being released in usually quiet February.

It now ranks as the third biggest movie of all time in North America, behind Star Wars: The Force Awakens, and Avatar.

Crazy Rich Asians, the first big Hollywood studio film to feature a majority Asian-American cast, also performed spectacularly, making $238 million at the box office, after costing only $30 million to produce.

There were other unexpected hits too like horror film A Quiet Place, and the romantic drama  A Star Is Born, starring Lady Gaga, both of which brought in around $350 million.

Erik Davis, managing editor of Fandango, the ticket website, said: "We’re living in a time right now where people want to escape to be entertained."