STAR WARS Awakens to Stellar Box Office Numbers

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UPDATE 12-23-15: Lucasfilm’s juggernaut has passed another milestone, earning $37.3 million on Tuesday to become the fastest film to cross $300 million in North America. Where it took Jurassic World eight days to accomplish this, Star Wars: The Force Awakens did it in five. Worldwide earnings are now reported to be $689.4 million after Tuesday’s screenings.

ORIGINAL STORY FOLLOWS:

“Are we looking at the first $3 billion movie ever?” asks Rentrak senior media analyst Paul Dergarabedian. “If any film can do it, it’s this one.”

According to Rentrak — which recently merged with comScore to become a more comprehensive measurement service for television, movies, advertising, and online behavior — the latest Star Wars movie could blow past Avatar for the all-time box office record. “Of course this is an estimate only, and will be updated when final tallies are in through December 31,” Dergarabedian told TheWrap on Tuesday.

Star Wars: The Force Awakens has officially become one of the biggest movies of all time, breaking a laundry list of records in its opening weekend:

  • Biggest Monday after opening weekend — $40.1 million in the US, breaking the record held previously held by Spider-Man 2 with $27.2 million.
  • Biggest US box office opening weekend — $288.1 million in North American ticket sales, including record-setting pre-sales.
  • Biggest opening weekend worldwide gross — $610.8 million, and that’s without opening in China. That doesn’t happen until January 9th.
  • Biggest Thursday night — preliminary estimates had the number between $50 and $55 million, easily beating Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part 2‘s $43.5 million.
  • Biggest three-night weekend in one U.S. location — specifically: Pacific’s ArcLight Cinema in Hollywood, where the weekend total was $715,010. Thursday and Friday night sales totaled $370,597 while Saturday saw a total of $180,904 and $163,510 on Sunday, according to Rentrak.
  • Biggest pre-sales numbers in Germany — beating all previous records with more than 550,000 tickets sold prior to opening weekend. Revenue will range between at least $8 million to $12 million in Germany alone.
  • Biggest sales performance at Fandango — pre-sales for The Force Awakens toppled Fandango’s record for any movie’s ticket sales during an entire theatrical run.

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The Force Awakens is a genuine cultural phenomenon,” says Fandango President Paul Yanover. “The extraordinary ticketing demand is truly unprecedented. It is Fandango’s top-selling movie of all time, even before it has even hit theater screens.  It’s great to see that all fans can enjoy the Star Wars experience, as our theater partners continue to add new screens and new showtimes every day.”

“We are obviously very encouraged by the record-breaking presales for Star Wars: The Force Awakens,” says Dave Hollis, Executive Vice President, Theatrical Distribution at Walt Disney Pictures prior to opening weekend, “but there are literally millions of tickets available for this weekend, and exhibitors have a lot of flexibility in terms of capacity and increasing the number of shows based on demand.”

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According to a Fandango survey of 1,000+ people, Daisy Ridley’s Rey was the most popular character, followed by Adam Driver’s Kylo Ren and FN-2187 — Finn — played by John Boyega. Also:

  • 79% say that seeing The Force Awakens in theaters is a cultural event;
  • 65% indicate that The Force Awakens is part of their holiday plans with family and friends;
  • 63% are planning to see the movie multiple times on the big screen.

The movie also broke records in the UK and Ireland with a four-day total of to £34.01 million ($37.1m U.S.). The film has had huge opening weekends in every country so far — with the second-best opening in France, 3.5 million Euros ($3.8 million), just behind Spectre. With the biggest opening day ever in Belgium, Norway, Finland, Sweden, Switzerland, and the Netherlands, the numbers are easily the best ever for a Star Wars film.

Prior to the film’s opening, Disney Chairman and CEO Bob Iger sent a letter thanking employees for their work, noting that the film’s debut is “one of the proudest and most exciting moments in our Company’s history.”

He added, “Unless you’ve been in a galaxy far, far away for the last few months, you’re probably aware that the global interest in this movie is absolutely stunning. Given the unprecedented excitement, we’re certainly expecting a very successful opening this weekend. (Okay, that may be the understatement of the century, but I’m trying to contain my enthusiasm!)”

Iger specifically pointed to Disney Studios chief Alan Horn, as well as Lucasfilm president Kathleen Kennedy and director J.J. Abrams for their part in the success of the franchise, which was acquired by Disney for over $4 billion in 2012.

“Kathy’s leadership has been key in successfully integrating Lucasfilm into Disney and in getting this historic movie made; and J.J. has directed and delivered an epic film that we are extremely proud of, one we know that millions of Star Wars fans — past, present, and future — will embrace,” he added.

“It’s been thrilling to see the remarkable level of teamwork behind this effort — every single business unit across the Company has been part of launching this movie and building the future of this franchise, ensuring it will generate value for our Company for generations to come.”

For her part, Kennedy says the response from fans has been “…exceptional,” telling Comic Book Resources, “I’ve never seen anything like this. The loyalty and support that people have, and the way they want everything to be great. They want to come in and have a great time seeing the movie, they want to share it with family and friends. That’s been a really nice surprise.”

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Hitting 4,134 theaters, the response has been overwhelmingly positive, and exhibitors are expecting (and getting) repeat viewings, which are good not only for box office numbers but also concessions revenue.

“What we are counting on is that this will be a repeat-view movie and from what I’ve seen Disney has the goods. Couldn’t be more delighted,” the exhibitor told Deadline.

Elizabeth Frank, chief content and programming officer at AMC, says, “You can’t get any broader than this movie when it comes to audience appeal, and this weekend and beyond AMC will offer consumers the opportunity to enjoy Star Wars however they would like — evening, midnight or morning, Imax, Dolby Cinema, 2D or 3D, big cities and small towns, even corporate events and children’s birthday parties. And there are plenty of tickets available for them all.”

Said another exhibitor: “We have a six-screen house, and we are playing Star Wars on five of those screens. It’s stupid to have anything else in your theaters right now.”

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Pre-sales for Vue, the largest cinema group outside the U.S. with 804 screens in the U.K., reports to The Hollywood Reporter that they arranged for 300 screens to be running Star Wars throughout the weekend, with over 355,000 tickets sold prior to opening.

U.K. Cinema Association Phil Clap said Vue’s numbers, plus advance sales at Odeon, the U.K.’s largest cinema chain, in addition to sales with other exhibitors, puts the number of pre-sales “way beyond one million.”

And the reaction from the crew of former record holder Jurassic World?

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Star Wars: The Force Awakens also joins The Big Short, Bridge of Spies, Carol, Inside Out, Mad Max: Fury Road, The Martian, Room, Spotlight, and Straight Outta Compton on the American Film Institute’s list of honorees for the top 10 movies of 2015.

The AFI postponed its awards meeting in order for jurors to have a chance to consider Star Wars before making a decision on the final list.

“Since AFI’s founding in the White House Rose Garden 50 years ago, its mandate has been to celebrate our nation’s storytellers,” said AFI president and CEO Bob Gazzale. “This is the goal of AFI Awards — to bring together our community as colleagues, not competitors, and to shine a proper light on their collective efforts to entertain and enlighten the world.”

The honorees are chosen by film and TV juries chaired by producers and AFI board of trustees vice chairs Tom Pollock (film) and Richard Frank (TV). The awards will be announced at a private luncheon in Los Angeles on January 8th.

[Sources: The Hollywood Reporter, Variety, Deadline, Comic Book Resources]

 

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Jason P. Hunt

Jason P. Hunt (founder/EIC) is the author of the sci-fi novella "The Hero At the End Of His Rope". His short film "Species Felis Dominarus" was a finalist in the Sci Fi Channel's 2007 Exposure competition.

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