From the moment Disney purchased Lucasfilm in 2012, everybody knew that a new Star Wars movie would be a monumental hit. It's a brand that pretty much sells itself, and has a widespread fan base that spans multiple generations. Arguably, the Mouse House may have underpaid George Lucas when they spent $4 billion, seeing that merchandise alone for J.J. Abrams' Star Wars: Episode VII - The Force Awakens generated $1 billion in sales when #ForceFriday took place.
The marketing for The Force Awakens was most effective, combining the new faces of Finn and Rey with the nostalgia of Han Solo and Chewbacca. Each trailer only increased enthusiasm and hope that Abrams had recaptured the magic of the beloved original trilogy. Based on reactions from the movie's world premiere, he managed to do just that, and that'll only help Star Wars 7's extremely lucrative commercial prospects.
Variety is reporting that advanced ticket sales for The Force Awakens have now surpassed $100 million, a figure that quadruples the previous record holder, The Dark Knight Rises' $25 million. This means, at the very least, Star Wars 7 is already the 25th highest-grossing film domestically of 2015... and it's still a few days away from being released in movie theaters nationwide.
The $100 million accounts for showtimes running through the New Year, but it's generally assumed that a majority of the sales are for the Force Awakens opening weekend. Disney has tried to downplay the box office projections in the past, but all signs are pointing to one of the biggest debuts in cinematic history. Star Wars will be dominating screens over the next couple of weeks, and even has a monopoly on IMAX theaters in the early going. If fans feel as strongly about The Force Awakens as critics have so far, there's an outside chance it can even top Avatar's all-time Stateside record of $760 million.
One has to wonder if this is a record that can ever be broken. The circumstances surrounding Episode VII are very unique. It is the first new Star Wars film in 10 years, and Disney's acquisition of Lucasfilm caught many people off-guard. The movie's very existence is an unexpected surprise, and millions of fans have been consumed by the endlessly fervent anticipation in the years since its announcement. In addition, this will in all likelihood be the last time the galaxy far, far away takes an extended break from the multiplex, meaning that the next "return" of Star Wars may not be as special of an event - even when the main saga continues in 2017's Episode VIII.
While the jury is still out to see if Star Wars can best Jurassic World's opening weekend mark that was set this summer, it's safe to say The Force Awakens has rewritten the record books for the month of December. To date, no movie released in that month (including Titanic, The Lord of the Rings, and Avatar) made $100 million in its opening weekend, and it's all but guaranteed Star Wars 7 will clear that when it starts playing. When one factors in the international figures, Disney executives are going to have a very happy holiday indeed.
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.