In the span of two weeks, Star Wars: The Force Awakens went from the most mysterious and anticipated feature film of the decade to a legitimate phenomenon. J.J. Abrams' reboot of the Star Wars saga has faced some criticism, but for the most part, the film scored a massive hit with fans both old and new. It’s also on course to become a titan at the box office.
Following a massive opening weekend bolstered by advanced ticket sales exceeding $100 million, The Force Awakens smashed box office records, grossing $238 million domestically -- astounding for winter releases which typically gross well under $100 million at best. It also became the fastest film to reach $1 billion in sales and broke the New Year's Day record, pulling a cool $34 mil. And, as debate-hungry fans fuel sales, Episode 7 is looking to push further into the record books after the New Year weekend.
The Force Awakens, grossing $687 million as of yesterday, has already steamrolled past Titanic's $658.7 million and Jurassic World's $652.27 million and into second place atop the all-time highest grossing domestic releases with $687 million, according to estimates supplied by Deadline. And Episode 7's run hit its stride much faster than previous record holders, pushing $700 M in only two weeks to Titanic's 9 months and Jurassic World's nearly 6 months. With a long holiday weekend to bolster sales, the industry predictions show that by Sunday night, the epic film will only be roughly $15 million behind Avatar’s domestic box office crown (at $760 million). It’s scheduled to claim its place atop the cinematic giants by Monday or Tuesday at the latest.
Despite some fan and cinema insider skepticism about moving the franchise from its traditional release date in May, Disney took a calculated risk with its holiday release, and it paid off. IMAX and IMAX 3D sales have rocketed past $100 million. Worldwide sales (via Variety) just topped $1.4 billion, ranking it sixth of all time behind Furious 7 ($1.515 billion) and are expected to get a major boost when The Force Awakens opens up in China on January 9th. With a major international market still untapped, some have predicted the seventh installment will push into the top global spot soon after release, surpassing Titanic (at $2.18 billion) and number one Avatar (at $2.78 billion).
Although blockbusters usually fare better during the summer, Disney's choice of a Holiday release possibly coincided with the film's broad fan base, who have more downtime during the holidays to visit and revisit far-away galaxies. Abrams’ addition to the saga is also charged with nostalgia and full of unanswered questions, likely fueling fans of all ages to return to the theater and scan for hints and Easter eggs. The Force Awakens offers valuable insight into the background of Kylo Ren and the course of events 30 years after Return of the Jedi but also leaves us guessing about the origins of Rey, the Knights of Ren, Supreme Leader Snoke’s identity, the fate of the New Republic. Whether drawn by nostalgia, curiosity, or wonder, the seventh installment is on its way to breaking domestic sales records in less than a month, compared to the 9 months it took Avatar to reach its peak.
Assuming Episode 7 shatters all the domestic box office records on Monday (which it likely will), and ticket sales in China boost it to the global apex, its anyone's guess how long will it rest atop the box office throne with upcoming mega-movies like X-Men: Apocalypse, Captain America: Civil War, and Batman V Superman on the way. And if it is unseated, is it only a matter of time before Rogue One or Episode 8 – with its further insight into the Star Wars universe – reclaims the movie ticket crown for Disney/Lucasfilm?
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.