Walt Disney Pictures and Lucasfilm have started ushering in a new era of Star Wars entertainment, with new canon novels, comic books, and Disney XD's animated series Star Wars Rebels. The linchpin of the Star Wars renaissance will be director J.J. Abrams' Star Wars: The Force Awakens, the continuation of the main Star Wars live-action movie saga that is expected to set multiple box office records when it reaches theaters near the end of 2015.
Universal Pictures' Jurassic World just barely set a global box office opening record in June 2015, with a $524.4 million take from theaters around the world. Disney Chairman/CEO Bob Iger hasn't released an official prediction for The Force Awakens' prospective box office debut at this time; however, a number of box office prognosticators currently anticipate that Abrams' Star Wars film could take in as much as $615 million when it bows in theaters around the globe.
The $615 million mark - which comes from Deadline - comes from predictions that Force Awakens could take in $300 million domestically during its opening frame, with an additional $315 million from non-U.S. markets. That is quite a prediction, seeing as Jurassic World took in $208.8 domestically when it opened in theaters; however, there are a few reasons to believe that Abrams' film could take in close to an additional $1oo million more than the aforementioned Jurassic Park franchise installment did, when it launched into theaters:
- As revealed by THR this week, The Force Awakens will be shown on every IMAX screen in North America and several IMAX screens outside the continent, too, throughout the first four weeks of its theatrical run (recalling the deal IMAX made for The Hobbit trilogy). IMAX Entertainment CEO Greg Foster has explained the logic behind the move as follows: "Star Wars: Episode VII is the ultimate crossover movie - it crosses over to everyone."
- Competition for The Force Awakens will be quite light during its opening frame, with the Amy Poehler and Tina Fey comedy Sisters as the only additional wide release that same weekend. In addition, the R-Rated Sisters will be aimed more directly at the adult moviegoing audience, whereas Force Awakens has comparatively universal appeal (in terms of age demographics).
- Reactions to Force Awakens trailer footage and marking material have, thus far, been about as close to universally optimistic and positive as you can get for this type of tentpole fare. Currently, the second Force Awakens teaser trailer has gotten 59.6 million views on the official Star Wars Youtube channel alone, further illustrating the sheer amount of interest in the film.
Abrams and his fellow Force Awakens producers - including Lucasfilm president Kathleen Kennedy - seem to have done an excellent job of putting together a new Star Wars movie that balances its needs to be marketable, with its own creative ambitions. Specifically, you have new players like the droid BB-8: a character who will no doubt sell many toys, but at the same time serves as a reflection of Abrams' commitment to blending practical elements with more contemporary digital-era filmmaking tools (CGI, partially shooting in IMAX, etc.). The technicians behind BB-8 have spoken to Star Wars.com about the process of creating the droid practically, with concept designer Christian Alzmann offering the following insight on the matter:
“J.J. wanted something rolling on a sphere, so I tried a lot of different designs developing that idea. He would give direction on the kinds of shapes to use, and that led to a personality for the droid. Of course, the original sketch had very pleasing, round shapes, so you kind of figured it wasn’t going to be a very serious or angry character. Ultimately, BB-8 developed out of a back-and-forth process with J.J. where he gave feedback on each iteration of the design.”
You can check out Empire's BB-8 themed magazine cover below:
Force Awakens likewise boasts a cast of beloved veterans from Star Wars movies past (Mark Hamill, Carrie Fisher, and Harrison Ford) along with several promising up and comers, headed by Daisy Ridley (Silent Witness), John Boyega (Attack the Block), and Oscar Isaac (Inside Llewyn Davis, Ex Machina). Those actors might not have much box office muscle yet, but as evidenced by the Force Awakens box office predictions, it's pretty clear the film isn't hurting from that; if anything, their involvement lends the movie more artistic cred (read: the cast prioritizes talented young actors over recognizable faces).
On that note - Empire has also released new photos showing Abrams and Boyega filming scenes for The Force Awakens set on the desert planet of Jakku (which has been glimpsed throughout the film's trailer footage released to date). Have a look at those, below:
Star Wars: The Force Awakens hits theaters on December 18th, 2015, 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.