A Record Breaking Opening Weekend For Star Wars: The Force Awakens
Perhaps not surprisingly, the newest film in the Star Wars saga is breaking all kinds of records.
Conventional wisdom holds that mass moviegoing is the pastime of another era. The cultural heat emanates from television now. Hollywood churns out only banal sequels and forgettable action films. Netflix is the new multiplex.
Well, the movies just struck back.
In an astounding display of cultural and commercial domination on a global scale — one with little precedent in the 100-year history of Hollywood — the Walt Disney Company’s “Star Wars: The Force Awakens” garnered roughly $517 million in ticket sales, smashing multiple box office records, even after accounting for inflation.
It was the largest opening weekend in North America, with $238 million in ticket sales. To put that figure into perspective, consider that “Avatar,” which analysts consider to be the highest-grossing film in history, with $3.1 billion in global ticket sales, took in $85 million over its first three days in domestic release; the previous record-holder for a December opening was “The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey,” with $87.5 million.
Disney said on Sunday that 47 percent of the gross for “The Force Awakens” came from 3-D screenings, for which tickets sell at a $3 to $5 premium. About 58 percent of the audience was male. About 63 percent of the audience was 26 or older.
For Hollywood, “Star Wars: The Force Awakens,” which cost roughly $350 million to make and market, represents the way movie executives — after years of watching television steal its thunder and suffering the decline of the DVD business — plan to battle back: Death Star-size movies that can capture the public’s imagination in ways reminiscent of the earliest years of blockbusterdom, before the hyper-fragmentation of pop culture.
Consumers are just beginning to see this nostalgia-driven strategy — “Jurassic World,” which took in $208 million over its first three days in June, in some ways was the start — but studios have been engaging in a behind-the-scenes race for some time.
Given the anticipation and, yes, hype that we’ve seen for this movie since it was first announced that Disney had acquired Lucasfilm and that a whole new round of movies, both continuing the story that started with Star Wars when it was released in May 1977, would be made, this isn’t entirely surprising, of course. The franchise has a built-in fan base that is unmatched by any other, and the promise of a new round of movies that would remove the bad taste that the prequel movies left behind was something that fans and movie critics alike seemed to look forward. This is only the beginning, of course, these numbers are likely to rise as the weeks and months go on, and The Force Awakens could very well end up surpassing movies like Titanic and Avatar to become the highest grossing film of all time. After that, there’s a whole new round of movies coming out, starting out just under a year from now with Rogue One, a film that is said to go back to a time before the original movie and tell the story of how the plans for the original Death Star were acquired. After that, Disney is already at work on the as-yet-untitled Episode VIII, which will be followed by the final movie in the new trilogy sometime in 2019. In between, there are rumors of other “anthology” movies featuring characters such as Obi-Wan Kenobi and a young Han Solo and, most likely, more after that. Disney paid some $4 billion for Lucasfilm, and it seems clear they are intent on making a lot more than that from their purchase in the future.
I’ll be posting a spoiler-free review of A Force Awakens later today, and I’ll repeat what I intend to say there. Namely, I’d just ask everyone to be respectful of those who have yet to see the film and either keep the comments as spoiler-free as possible, or note spoiler warnings for anyone who hasn’t seen the movie yet. Also, if you haven’t seen the movie, proceed into the comments at your own risk.
Update: The aforementioned spoiler-free review can be found here.