From the moment Disney acquired Lucasfilm in 2012 and announced there would be a sequel trilogy set in the Star Wars saga, everybody knew it would be a massive box office hit. The galaxy far, far away has become one of pop culture's most beloved franchises and has generations of fans eager to see new adventures take place. Only one question remained in regards to Star Wars: Episode VII - The Force Awakens' commercial prowess: how high could it go?
Earlier this year, Universal's Jurassic World set a new record for domestic opening weekend by posting a whopping $208.8 million in its first three days. That figure made everyone wonder what the long-awaited return of Star Wars could accomplish, and now the numbers are in. Once again, the Star Wars saga has broken new ground for what's possible at the box office.
In a press release, Walt Disney Studios announced that The Force Awakens has shattered several domestic all-time box office marks. The most notable is grossing $238 million in its opening weekend, but that is only the beginning:
- Biggest Thursday preview ($57 million)
- Biggest Friday and single day gross ($120.5 million)
- First movie to make $100+ million in one day
- Fastest to $100 million and $200 million
- New December opening weekend record (previous was The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey at a lowly $84.6 million)
- Biggest IMAX Thursday night preview ($5.7 million), single day ($14 million on Friday), and weekend ($30.1 million)
- Highest per theater average for wide release ($57,568)
Even though it's only been playing in theaters for three days, Star Wars 7 is already the seventh highest-grossing film Stateside in 2015 and is well on its way to moving up the charts. The Force Awakens has received stellar word-of-mouth from both critics and fans, praising it for being a rousing return-to-form for the franchise. That kind of reception will only keep the buzz strong, since a plethora of moviegoers will go back for repeat viewings (in addition to the newcomers who see it).
The Force Awakens has not been a slouch in the international markets either. The worldwide total for opening weekend was an astonishing $517 million, more than double the $200 million production budget (which does not include marketing costs). Episode VII set new opening weekend records in 19 foreign countries, and scored the second-highest debut in four more. It obviously will become the newest member of the $1 billion club in no time, becoming the fifth release of 2015 to do so. Star Wars is back in a huge way, and Disney executives could not be more thrilled.
With figures this astronomical so early in its release, the conversation will now turn to The Force Awakens' chances of dethroning Avatar as the highest-grossing film of all-time, both internationally and domestically. There is still clearly a long way to go ($760 million and $2.7 billion), and it's worth pointing out that The Avengers and Jurassic World both were unable to top James Cameron's sci-fi epic - even with the $200+ million start. However, The Force Awakens has one major advantage those two did not.
The previous two times a blockbuster made over $200 million, it was in the summer season, which is typically a more crowded time for the movies. For example, Jurassic World went head-to-head with Pixar's Inside Out in its second weekend, so the competition was stronger. While Star Wars is definitely front-loaded, it is essentially the only tentpole in town during the holiday season, making it the clear go-to option for the next handful of weeks. Awards contenders like The Hateful Eight and The Revenant may post respectable numbers on their own, but nothing playing throughout the winter will have the drawing power of a new Star Wars movie. Once again, the Force is strong with the box office.
Star Wars: Episode VII – The Force Awakens is now in theaters, 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 reach theaters in 2019, followed by the third Star Wars Anthology film in 2020.
Source: Walt Disney Studios