How Did Jumanji Beat Star Wars?
While The Last Jedi was undoubtedly successful, it couldn't capture quite the same box office magic as J.J. Abrams' The Force Awakens. Part of this is the fact that Star Wars' is now an annual event, meaning the initial tidal wave of hype has somewhat crested. That The Last Jedi was more divisive won't have helped matters, however; for all its showstopping moments, the mixed response translates to fewer repeat viewings. It's somewhat ironic that the elements that The Force Awakens was originally criticized for are what also encouraged people to return over and over.
All of that played an integral role in hindering The Last Jedi's upward momentum at the box office, thus opening up space for competition to swoop in and thrive - and Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle took advantage of that opportunity, providing a similar but perhaps more palatable experience. Add to that families who would initially plump to see Jumanji instead of Star Wars anyway, and you have a major box office movement.
Now, we're not saying Jumanji destroyed Star Wars - Episode VIII is the biggest film of 2018, after all. The fact is, though, that Episode VIII was once expected to cross $1.6 billion at the worldwide box office; now some analysts predict it won't even hit $1.5 billion, thanks in part to a sharp decline in viewership in China and the enormous success of Jumanji. As with any other industry, there's market share. And for the first time in years, Star Wars started losing some of its sizable chunk to another movie, one that offered audiences a different kind of family adventure.
What Does Jumanji's Success Prove?
Jumanji 2 going up against Star Wars was something that many people considered to be foolish. Why would a studio want to pit their mid-budgeted movie opposite the biggest franchise in cinematic history? But, as it turns out, Sony Pictures' risk paid off big-time. And it goes to show that as long as movies are decent and offer something special, they can still achieve success no matter what the competition may be; counter-programming can - and will - work in the right circumstances.
This isn't news. Take a look at The Dark Knight and Mamma Mia in 2008. Christopher Nolan's Batman Begins sequel became the most successful comic book movie ever made for its time, both critically and commercially, becoming the first superhero film to gross more than $1 billion globally. But the DC film's success didn't prevent Phyllida Lloyd's ABBA musical movie adaptation from also nabbing big bucks at the box office. The movie opened the same weekend as The Dark Knight and still it went on to gross almost $610 million worldwide. That's quite an achievement, and it proves that counter-programming is always effective so long as the products themselves are worthwhile. That also means that release dates for movies such Avatar 2 and Wonder Woman 2 may not always need to be adjusted around Star Wars. If Jumanji can outperform in the same release frame as a Star Wars movie, so can they.
Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle may not have broken any major records, but it went against all odds and came out on top. Plus, there's something poetic about Kasdan's film going up against Star Wars and standing its ground. The future of Star Wars is unclear, but you can definitely bet on Jumanji 3.
- Solo: A Star Wars Story (2018) release date: May 25, 2018
- Star Wars 9 / Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker (2019) release date: Dec 20, 2019