NOTE: In lieu of a traditional box office prediction post, we will use this space to analyze Star Wars: The Force Awakens' chances of topping Jurassic World's domestic opening weekend record.
This Friday, moviegoers around the globe will finally get to see J.J. Abrams' Star Wars: Episode VII - The Force Awakens, and it's shaping up to be a day long remembered for fans of the galaxy far, far away. Some feared that the movie could not possibly live up to the substantial expectations many had for it, but the reviews are in - and The Force Awakens is a fun, exciting return to form for the beloved Skywalker saga.
That news is extremely comforting for audiences, since they've collectively spent over $100 million preordering Force Awakens tickets, with a majority of that going towards the opening weekend. It's a foregone conclusion that Episode VII will be number one at the box office this week (sorry Sisters and Alvin and the Chipmunks 4), but just how high can Star Wars go? Will The Force Awakens surpass the current domestic opening weekend record of Jurassic World?
In June 2015, the fourth Jurassic Park film (which also based its marketing campaign around nostalgia) debuted to the tune of a cool $208.8 million, besting the previous mark set by 2012's The Avengers. Its overwhelming success was a surprise, as even the rosiest optimists couldn't see it pulling off that feat. If Jurassic World managed to accomplish that, then the return of something as massive as Star Wars could only be bigger, right?
Perhaps. History was going against Star Wars 7's quest for a $200+ million opening weekend from the start. Even though some of the biggest films ever made have opened in December (Lord of the Rings, Avatar, etc.), no movie released during that month has crossed even $100 million in its first three days. Factors such as inclement winter weather in certain markets, as well as holiday preparation and traveling play a sizable role in this, preventing some people from making the trek to the theater. Both Jurassic World and The Avengers opened in the warmer months of summer, considered the busiest time for movies.
By all accounts, The Force Awakens should break new ground and shatter the current December record of $84.6 million set by the first Hobbit in 2012. Despite the large number of pre-orders, Disney maintains there are still plenty of seats available as theater owners squeeze in as many showings as possible to meet demand. In addition, Star Wars 7 will be monopolizing IMAX screens across the country in the early stages of its release, so an opening of over $100 million is all but guaranteed. Some projections have Star Wars pegged for a haul of $223 million, but is that figure too high?
Disney will unveil the movie in reportedly 4,100 locations, which is well behind Twilight: Eclipse's record of 4,468 and even Jurassic World's 4,274 theaters. As shocking as that may be, Star Wars will be at a disadvantage in that regard. However, it will be playing several times per day, with screenings beginning early in the morning and running through the end of the night. Since Jurassic World opened in a more crowded summer season, it did not have this luxury. Star Wars will essentially be the only blockbuster in town (Hunger Games came out a month ago) and has been riding a large wave of buzz that's only growing in the days leading up to December 18. Every showing will be packed.
In the end, Star Wars 7 has a very good chance to challenge the Jurassic mark. Earning $100 million in advanced sales is unprecedented, and there will be several more who opt to get their tickets at the theater. In addition, there's a sense of urgency to see Star Wars as soon as possible due to the thick veil of secrecy being lifted at long last. Everyone from the die-hards to casual viewers will want to be a part of the conversation and not get spoiled. This is a rarity in the industry: a true cinematic event that all want to be a part of. $200 million is definitely in range.
Next week, the Box Office Prediction will return to its regular format!
Star Wars: Episode VII – 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.
Source: Box Office