Star Wars: The Force Awakens was as big as it was being hyped up to be at the box-office in North America; maybe even bigger. A release of a Star Wars film always makes for great box-office numbers, but with Disney now spearheading the marketing of the new set of movies, everyone was wondering how much further it could go. Oh well, it has gone to a height that no movie has ever reached before, opening with a staggering $248 million in North America! [UPDATE: Initial estimates of $238 million got revised to $248 million when the final announcements were made] That makes this the biggest weekend collection for a single movie ever seen in the history of Hollywood, easily topping the $208.8 million earned by Jurassic World in June 2015. To put things in perspective, Jurassic World had barely edged 2012’s The Avengers by $1.4 million, and these were the only two movies to have ever opened north of $200 million until the release of Star Wars: The Force Awakens. Interestingly, J.J. Abrams’ Star Wars released in lesser theatres than both Jurassic World and The Avengers which makes its record-breaking earnings all the more incredible. Within the Star Wars series, the previous best opening had been of $108.4 million earned by Star Wars: Episode III – Revenge of the Sith back in 2005. At that time, when the whole circle had been completed with Anakin Skywalker turning into Darth Vader, who would have thought that this series would return on such a massive scale a decade later. There is a whole list of records that Star Wars: The Force Awakens now owns, such as biggest opening in December, biggest opening day ever, highest per theatre average for a wide release etc. You can read the list compiled by Boxofficemojo.com.
The story does not end with North America. Star Wars: The Force Awakens earned another $281 million in foreign markets which takes its worldwide tally to $529 million. That’s a great way to begin things for a movie made on a production budget of $200 million, though the marketing spend here would have been huge. How the movie will fare in the coming weeks is going to be of interest for those who keep track of the box-office earnings. We have limited precedents here, but let’s look at Jurassic World and The Avengers. The domestic collections (i.e. in North America) for both these movies was about 3 times their opening weekend earnings, which means Star Wars: The Force Awakens could be earning more than $700 million in North America alone! While The Avengers almost added another $900 million from foreign markets, Jurassic World did a bit more than a billion. Star Wars: The Force Awakens should be in that kind of a range, and it would interesting to see how it fares in China, where it ain’t as big a phenomenon as it is in most parts of the world. Will Star Wars: The Force Awakens gross more than $1,699 million worldwide to jump above Jurassic World and become the third-biggest movie of all time? Can it do even better and challenge Avatar? Or will we see the initial euphoria melt down in coming weeks? Whichever way it goes, the final numbers aren’t going to be bad at all. Disney, which boasts of having bought the likes of Marvel and Pixar studios in multi-billion dollar deals that are now easily justified, has been proven right once more with the buyout of Lucasfilm (for $4.05 billion in 2012). Proven right in some style!
There were two more wide releases on this weekend, though they have fallen under the radar with all the excitement surrounding Star Wars. The first one to take on the might of the Jedi were chipmunks with their movie Alvin and the Chipmunks: The Road Chip. This is in fact the fourth movie of the series that has surprisingly been doing extremely well. But a release after a four-year period and that too in the same weekend as Star Wars seems to have done some damage. The movie opened with $14.3 million which is the weakest for the franchise, way below the $23.2 million earned by the third instalment in 2011, and far away from the $40 million+ openings the first two movies had enjoyed. The last two movies of the franchise though have earned more than $200 million in foreign markets alone, and if that turns out to be the case with the latest one, then we will surely have another hit on hand, irrespective of how the domestic earnings go. But that is a big ‘if’, something that we’ll know of only in the coming weekends.
The R-rated comedy Sisters starring the duo Tina Fey and Amy Poehler earned $13.9 million on the opening weekend which is the lowest of the three new releases, but not that bad. Sisters is a relatively lower budget movie with $30 million spent on production, and so if it holds up well in the coming weekends starting with Christmas, where movies’ collections do not drop much, then the studio might still be able to recover its investment. The foreign earnings for such movies are tougher to predict, and so here too, it would be better to make a judgement after a few weeks. Last week’s In the Heart of the Sea dropped by a shocking 69% in its second weekend; its total worldwide earnings stand at a partly $68.2 million so far. If the collections from overseas markets do not grow much in the coming weeks, then we will end up with another high cost failure on our hands.
That’s a wrap from a historic weekend in North America. One more weekend remains as the year comes to a close…
Here are the top 5 weekend earners at the US box-office:
1. Star Wars: The Force Awakens ($248.0 million)
2. Alvin and the Chipmunks: The Road Chip ($14.3 million)
3. Sisters ($13.9 million)
4. The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 2 ($5.9 million; fifth weekend)
5. Creed ($5.0 million; fourth weekend)