Weekend Box Office: The Force Dominates

The Force was incredibly strong with Disney’s Star Wars – Episode VII: The Force Awakens this weekend as the long-awaited film made its worldwide debut. With marketing that turned the film’s debut into a cultural event, The Force Awakens pretty much had the box office all to itself while sending the box office overall into the stratosphere. Thanks to The Force Awakens, the top ten was up 337% over last week and 139% from this time a year ago.

Arriving this past Thursday on 4,134 screens in North America with many showing the film around the clock on its first day, the seventh episode in the nearly four-decade old Star Wars franchise scored a record-setting $238 million. Foreign markets contributed $279 million. The $517 million earned by The Force Awakens is the second-highest global debut of all time, just behind Jurassic World’s $525 million six months ago. The Universal dinosaur epic had the advantage of a summer release date as well as opening in China day-and-date with the rest of the world. The Force Awakens debuts in China January 9th while Greece and India get the film on Christmas Eve.

Capturing the biggest domestic opening of all time isn’t the only thing the Mouse House can brag about today. Disney can now also lay claim to the following records thanks to Awakens: Biggest Thursday preview gross ($57 million), biggest Friday and single-day gross ($120.5 million), first film ever to post a single day gross over $100 million, fastest film to break both the $100 and $200 million mark, highest theater average for a wide release and, of course, biggest December debut.

Additional records were broken thanks to IMAX presentations. Episode VII broke domestic records for biggest Thursday night preview ($5.7 million), single day ($14 million on Friday), weekend ($30.1 million) and global ($48 million) hauls. Overseas, the film smashed opening weekend records in 18 countries, including the U.K., Russia and Germany.

The massive opening for Force is something not usually seen at this time of the year. The film was originally set to open this past May, but was delayed due to production delays. December films tend to open smaller and stick around longer as people head out to the theaters during their holiday break. 2012’s The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey opened to $84 million -the previous record for biggest December opening- and went on to earn $303 million by the end of its run in April 2013. And, of course, there are Avatar and Titanic. Each opened to big numbers ($77 million for Avatar and $28.6 million for Titanic) but made the majority of their stellar grosses over the long run.

With so much business brought in during such a short period of time, one has to wonder what the long-term prospects will be for The Force Awakens. Obviously, it’s going to be untouchable over the upcoming Christmas and New Year frames, where it should have close to $500 million in domestic sales by start of 2016. But what happens after that?

With strong reviews -check our opinions out here and here– and even stronger feedback from ticket buyers, the Force should have a nice, long run ahead of it. The J.J. Abrams-directed chapter earned a great 95% Rotten Tomatoes approval rating and an 81/100 rating from Metacritic while viewers polled on CinemaScore gave the film an “A” rating. Those two factors should help bring in those who were on the fence about seeing the film in the theater.

Then there are the legions of Star Wars fans both young and old. Good or bad, they will see a Star Wars film many, many times in the theater (The Prequel Trilogy, anyone?). Combine those factors with the continued marketing onslaught from Disney and The Force Awakens may power its way to the $700 million mark domestically and possibly $2 billion from overseas. The first of the Star Wars Anthology films is due at the end of 2016 while the sequel to The Force Awakens, Star Wars: Episode VIII, arrives in May of 2017.

In other box office news…

Fox’s latest Alvin and the Chipmunks film, The Road Chip, was offered as counter-programming to The Force Awakens for very young kids. The family comedy drove its way into a second place finish with $14.4 million from 3,653 theaters. Critics, not surprisingly, eviscerated the latest live-action offering of Alvin, Simon and Theodore. They gave the film a 14% approval rating on Rotten Tomatoes and a 34/100 rating on Metacritic.

Universal also offered up their own counterprogramming, this time for adults, with the Tina Fey/Amy Poehler comedy Sisters. The R-rated comedy opened on 2,962 screens Friday where it earned an okay $13.4 million. Reviews were largely on the positive side for the comedy. Sisters earned a 77% approval rating on Rotten Tomatoes and an okay 58/100 Metacritic rating. Viewers were a bit mixed on the film, giving it a “B” rating on CinemaScore.

With the arrival of The Force, the rest of the box office took it on the chin. The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part Two dropped to fourth place with a $5.6 million haul from 2,653 theaters. After one month, the film has earned $254.4 million. Rounding out the top five was Warner’s Creed with $5 million from 2,433 screens. It’s current total stands at $88 million. Both films saw drops of 50% from the previous weekend.

The remainder of the top ten:

  1. The Good Dinosaur (Disney) $4.3 million (-59%); $96.6 million
  1. Krampus (Universal) $3.7 million (-55%); $34.8 million
  1. In the Heart of the Sea (Warner) $3.4 million (-69%); $18.6 million
  1. Dilwale (UTV) $1.8 million (NEW); $1.8 million
  1. Bajirao Mastani (Eros) $1.6 million (NEW); $1.6 million

Paramount’s The Big Short goes into wide release on Wednesday while Christmas Day sees the arrival of Sony’s Concussion, Paramount’s Daddy’s Home, Fox’s Oscar hopeful Joy, the remake of Point Break from Warner Brothers and the limited releases of Quentin Tarantino’s The Hateful Eight and Fox’s The Revenant.

Happy Holidays, everyone! And May the (movie-going) Force Be With You.

Star Wars: The Force Awakens review

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