As far back as 2012, when Disney officially announced their $4 billion purchase of Lucasfilm and the subsequent acquisition of the Star Wars franchise, people – not just fans of the franchise – were paying serious attention. The purchase was a monumental one: the handing over of the reins to one of the biggest franchises in the history of cinema. George Lucas, the man who had introduced generations of devoted fans to Luke Skywalker, Darth Vader, Yoda and the magic of The Force, was stepping down.
Elated with the purchase, Disney promised fans three new films in the Star Wars canon – the first of which would be due to arrive in 2015. Beyond that, they also guaranteed a new Star Wars film every year until 2020. A tall order indeed, but for most, 2020 was a long way off. The real point of focus was 2015, when the JJ Abrams directed Star Wars: Episode VII - The Force Awakens was scheduled to land in theaters everywhere.
Now less than three weeks after its initial release, Disney still has everyone paying attention as The Force Awakens smashes box offices records left and right. It seems like we can’t go a day without hearing about the film edging in on some new milestone and today’s edging in is an especially big one. As reported on first by THR, The Force Awakens is now the highest grossing film of all time in North America, not accounting for inflation.
So, what exactly does this mean? Well, for starters The Force Awakens has brought in a whopping $758.2 million domestically in the 20-day period for which it has been in theaters. This means that by the end of today (at the time of writing this), it will have surpassed the previous highest-grossing title domestically, James Cameron’s Avatar ($760.5 million). Cameron’s own sci-fi epic had held that top spot since 2010.
Despite this massive victory, The Force Awakens is still playing catch up with Avatar on the global front. Cameron’s film raked in $2.78 billion internationally; a record Avatar still maintains. But for how much longer? Though not yet close to Avatar’s worldwide take, The Force Awakens is slowly but surely gunning for that top spot with $1.56 billion globally thus far. It’s also worth keeping in mind that The Force Awakens has yet to open in China and that when it does (on January 9th), the film’s global box-office take is expected to swell.
It’s hard to say exactly what will happen with The Force Awakens’ run to be the world’s highest grossing film of all time. Many analysts feel that it won’t overtake Avatar’s top spot and will eventually come to rest comfortably in the number 2 slot. If this does end up being the case, it could have to do with Avatar’s broader appeal internationally.
At the time of its release, Avatar’s visual appeal was the film’s main draw – 3D technology unlike any seen before requires no background information on characters or past events. Audiences could pay for a ticket and enjoy the spectacle. As beloved as Star Wars is for so many, it lacks a similar broad appeal. Fans around the world are queuing up to see it again and again, but that just might not be enough to make it king of the world.
Star Wars: Episode VII – The Force Awakens is now in theaters, and will be followed by Rogue One: A Star Wars Story on December 16th, 2016; Star Wars: Episode VIII on May 26th, 2017; and the Han Solo Star Wars Anthology film on May 25th, 2018. Star Wars: Episode IX is expected to see theatrical release in 2019, followed by the third Star Wars Anthology film in 2020.