It would appear that something has very much awakened. In an unprecedented debut, especially for December, Star Wars: The Force Awakens opened to a record $247 million domestically this past weekend, to go along with its $281 international take, giving it $528 million worldwide (also a record) already.
To put this in perspective, the previous opening weekend record (for both numbers) had been set by Jurassic World, with $208.8 million and $524 million respectively. That movie had the advantage of opening in the typically front-loaded month of June and with the added benefit of China, the second-largest box office market in the world, debuting the film concurrently with the rest of the globe. Star Wars doesn’t open in China until January. Who knows how massive the space opera’s numbers would have been had that country’s totals been lumped onto them?
For even more perspective, the previous stateside December opening weekend record was $84.6 million, set by the first Hobbit film in 2012. That should go to show you how utterly unusual this is. Doubling a month’s previous record is exceedingly rare. Nearly tripling it? Get out.
These unheard-of numbers are why we might not be able to treat this film as a typical December-style blockbuster. A healthy holiday mega-movie can garner anywhere from a 3.5x-4.5x weekend multiplier (how many of its opening weekend grosses it ultimately makes in the U.S. and Canada). So much demand for this film was met this weekend (nearly 1/4 of its take came just from Thursday preview shows, a type of front-loading uncommon in even the most popular of summer blockbusters), that this film might play out more like a healthy summer blockbuster, with a 2.5x-3.0x weekend multiplier.
Either way, this film is virtually guaranteed at this point to top the $1.5 billion mark worldwide and the $600 million mark domestically, which already puts it in hallowed company, making it an unmitigated success. Disney’s goal here was to reinvigorate worldwide ardor for this franchise, and they have done so in spades. My fairly tame review notwithstanding, this movie has received a rave response, with a 95% Rotten Tomatoes mark and a sparkling “A” CinemaScore. In short, this film will be the beneficiary of some uncommonly good word of mouth.
If I had to make some estimates? Without knowing really how the film with play over the week (likely very strong, considering most schools are out and the holidays are prime times to fill your kids’ days by taking them to the movies), I’d hazard a guess at a domestic total of anywhere from $670 million-$730 million domestically, and a final worldwide total of around $1.7-$1.8 billion. No, I don’t think it will cross $2 billion, and I think Avatar‘s worldwide record is very much safe at this point. Its domestic record is somewhat in play, though still would take some rare staying power for Star Wars to overtake.
Whatever this movie ends up making overall, I can agree with the critics when it comes to this oft-repeated phrase (at least in terms of this franchise’s box office dominance): Star Wars is back.