Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Will 'Star Wars: The Force Awakens' break all box office records?

Nobody saw Jurassic World's success coming. Although Universal's massive blockbuster was predicted to be one of the biggest hits of the summer, many simply assumed that Marvel's Avengers: Age of Ultron would top the box office with ease. And while the latest superhero team up flick has done very well (it's currently at $449.4 million in the US and $1.36 billion worldwide), the dinosaurs of Jurassic World have ruled the summer. Through ten days of release, the Colin Trevorrow-directed extravaganza has broken nearly every record in the book, and is currently sitting at $402.8 million in the US and nearly a billion worldwide. With continued success throughout the month of June and through early July, it's quite possible that Jurassic World will end up being the second highest grossing film of all time in the US, behind Avatar, and the third highest grossing film of all time in the worldwide markets. But despite this unprecedented success, fans and prognosticators are already looking to the future and deeming that these records won't hold up for long.


Here is a Twitter conversation that I found today and it got me thinking about quite a few things:

"Even more remarkable than these Jurassic numbers? Knowing they'll all be crushed in December."- Seth Grahame-Smith

"@sethgs yep. An exec tell me the other day he feels STAR WARS does $4 billion including $1 billion in China alone and was being dead serious."- Justin Kroll

Grahame-Smith goes on to say that he thinks that $4 billion is a bit much, but believes that The Force Awakens will be the first film to pass $3 billion at the global box office. Now, I definitely believe that The Force Awakens will be a monster smash. And it will be an even bigger smash if it's good. Currently, it's positioned to open on the exact same day that Avatar debuted on back on 2009, and we all know that the James Cameron sci-fi flick is the highest grossing flick of all time, with box office receipts totaling $760.5 million in the US and $2.78 billion worldwide with $204.1 million of that coming from China. Does The Force Awakens realistically have enough to beat that box office behemoth?


There's no question in my mind that The Force Awakens will be the biggest hit of the year. Even with Jurassic World likely finishing anywhere between $600-$680 million in the US and $1.5-$1.7 billion worldwide, Star Wars should still easily top those numbers. There's a lot of passion surrounding this franchise and it has been 30 years since we've seen some of the characters in this upcoming film. The Force Awakens will see the return of Han Solo, Princess Leia, Chewbacca, and most importantly, Luke Skywalker. It has also had a killer marketing campaign so far, with two teaser trailers that broke records and generated a lot of excitement from fans. Anticipation for The Force Awakens is at an all-time high and people are rabid to know more about this film. With more information expected to hit in the next few weeks at Comic-Con and D23 (Disney's version of Comic-Con), expect the excitement to continue to grow.

The Box Office History of Star Wars

But is the precedent there for Star Wars to gross $2, $3 or even $4 billion dollars? Out of curiosity, I headed over to Box Office Mojo to examine what the previous Star Wars films had grossed at the box office. The comps for the original trilogy are a little messy because of the lack of a true way to adjust. But boy BOM's standards, all of these titles have been adjusted for inflation.

Domestic Totals


Star Wars (1977)- $1,159,000,000

Empire Strikes Back- $640,361,400

Return of the Jedi- $657,585,100

So, basically, every movie in the OT was a big smash hit with Star Wars approaching astronomical levels. Empire and Jedi were big as well, and if they had been released in today's market, the overseas numbers would have been huge as well. Now, let's take a look at what the prequels did at the box office. As always, all numbers adjusted for inflation.

Star Wars: Episode I- The Phantom Menace- $688,785,500

*Does not include 3-D re-release

        Opening Weekend- $103,611,500
        5-day total- $168,891,600

Star Wars: Episode II- Attack of the Clones- $422,339,600

        Opening Weekend- $111,846,100
        4-day total- $153,971,500

Star Wars: Episode III- Revenge of the Sith- $481,715,600

        Opening Weekend- $137,363,300
        4-day total- $200,719,400


Adjusting international numbers is very difficult due to the true lack of a common currency between nations. So we'll never really know how the prequels can compare to this new trilogy in overseas markets and we'll definitely never know much of anything about the international grosses for the original trilogy. But, for the sake of throwing the numbers out there, here are the unadjusted international totals for each of the prequels.

The Phantom Menace- $493,229,257
Attack of the Clones- $338,721,588
Revenge of the Sith- $468,484,191

Jurassic vs. Star Wars
   
Those are all big numbers. Each and every Star Wars film made back its money and more. But it does lead me to question Grahame-Smith and Kroll's assumption. Can a Star Wars film really approach $4 billion? Will The Force Awakens even realistically make it to $3 billion? As a fan of the franchise, I say yes, but in the real world, I'm beginning to question that. For a comparison, let's look at the adjusted numbers for Jurassic Park.

*Does not include 3-D re-release

Domestic Total- $699,991,400

Opening Weekend- $92.2 million

International Total (not adjusted for inflation)- $557,623,171


Basically, Jurassic Park lines up very closely with The Phantom Menace. And Jurassic World, in the domestic market, is shaping up to look quite a bit like its predecessor. The important thing to note here is that it is NOT shaping up like The Lost World or Jurassic Park III, the two much-maligned sequels to Steven Spielberg's acclaimed classic. The Lost World snagged $405.2 million in the US and $389.5 million internationally, while Jurassic Park III made a mere $259.9 million in the US and $187.6 million internationally, when adjusted for inflation. To me, this signifies a very important bit of info for Star Wars: The Force Awakens- it's a fresh start.

A New Hope

As many know, people really don't like the prequels. I mean, they REALLY don't like them. Granted, they still made a ton of money, but there is a lot of hatred in the film community and the Star Wars community for the George Lucas-directed films. The Force Awakens promises to not be more of the same. The Force Awakens has a young, fresh director in JJ Abrams, original cast members who were sorely missed in the prequels, new stars set to appeal to a new generation of fans, the Disney marketing machine and the benefit of having released two terrific trailers. People are pumped and ready for a new Star Wars film and the international market has only grown since the last film hit in 2005.

If The Force Awakens is as good as we think it will be, and if it pleases both die hards and casual fans, then the sky is the limit. There will be no telling how high it will go. It could hit those astronomical numbers that Grahame-Smith and Kroll discuss in their respective tweets.

The Records in Jeopardy


Now, in my mind, what records will go down with Star Wars? For one, the seemingly impossible record that could go down is the all-time midnight release record, which currently belongs to Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows- Part 2, the final chapter that grossed $43.5 million back in 2011. Many have speculated that that number is forever untouchable, but I think that the excitement for The Force Awakens is there. Every fan of Star Wars is going to want to turn out for that (expected) 7:00 PM release, and every theater in the country will be pretty much devoting their entire multiplex to JJ Abrams' space opera. I'm betting on at least $45 million on Thursday night and possibly up to $50 million. The all time widest opening record which currently belongs to The Twilight Saga: Eclipse (4,468 locations) will likely go down as well, as I'm expecting an opening in surplus of 4,500 theaters and over.

After that massive Thursday opening, it will be up to families and casual fans to carry this film to success. The Star Wars crazies (myself included) will see it two or three or four times over the course of the weekend, but it's a matter of getting other critical audiences to check it out like they did for Jurassic World. If everything falls into place correctly, I think that we could see an opening day that nears $135 million and an opening weekend near $250-$300 million. The anticipation is really that high.

Or, something completely different could happen. The Force Awakens could snag around $175-$200 million on its way to a very leggy run a la Avatar. But I just don't see that happening. Even though Christmas releases (like Peter Jackson's Lord of the Rings and Hobbit trilogies) usually have longer runs and smaller openings, I don't think that The Force Awakens is a film that many people will wait for. People are going to want to see this film as soon as possible, and I think that will result in a worldwide opening of $550-$700 million.


After that, it's unclear exactly what will happen. It could play out like Avatar over the holiday frame, everybody and their entire family could go see this film, and it could end up topping Avatar in the US and nearing $900 million to $1 billion. And in the overseas markets, it could sail as high as $2 billion and play out very well, for a total worldwide gross of close to $3 billion. Or, it could end up being a little front-loaded and end up with $2 billion total worldwide. But in my mind, with the combination of a marketing campaign that really entices fans, and a lot of nostalgia for a Star Wars sequel, there's no way that this doesn't make at least $2 billion and push Titanic and Avatar for those big records. There's just too much going for this film.

Early Predictions

As we near closer to the film's release and see more information, we'll definitely get more insight into the box office prospects of Star Wars: The Force Awakens. But for now, my current projections for the movie go like this:

-Thursday night- $46 million
-Opening Day Total- $135.4 million
-Opening Weekend- $289 million
-International Opening Weekend- $425 million
-Worldwide Total Opening Weekend- $714 million
-Total US Gross- $800 million
-Total International Gross-$1.6 billion
-Total Worldwide Gross- $2.4 billion

My predictions will undoubtedly change over time and depending on how Disney works over the next few months, these numbers could go down significantly. But if everything falls into place exactly like it should, then we could be seeing the biggest box office juggernaut of all time by the time that December rolls around.


Image Credits: Hollywood Reporter, The Guardian, Apple Trailers, Flickering Myth, Latino Review, Variety, YouTube, Screen Rant

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