“Star Wars: The Force Awakens” showed few signs of flagging over Christmas weekend, barreling past the $1 billion mark globally at a faster clip than any film in history.
It’s becoming old hat to recount the various ways that the seventh film in the science-fiction fantasy is vaporizing records, but, familiar or not, “The Force Awakens” once again ground down high-water marks over the holidays, racking up $153.5 million domestically. That represents both the biggest Christmas holiday result and the best second weekend for a film.
“This would have been a respectable opening weekend for ‘Star Wars,'” said Paul Dergarabedian, senior media analyst for Rentrak. “It’s become a happening. It’s a cultural event that’s seeped into the zeitgeist. That’s the only way you get these numbers.”
Domestically, “The Force Awakens” has grossed a mammoth $544.6 million. Worldwide that figure is nearly $1.1 billion. The “Star Wars” sequel crossed $1 billion in twelve days, something it took the previous record holder, “Jurassic World,” thirteen days to accomplish.
The three-day holiday should also rank as biggest Christmas weekend overall beating the $269.8 million generated in 2009 — that period saw the launch of “Sherlock Holmes” and the second weekend of “Avatar,” the box office titan that “The Force Awakens” hopes to surpass as the highest-grossing film in history.
Despite the furor surrounding the return of the Jedi, a few films managed to score with yuletide ticket buyers.
Paramount reunited “The Other Guys” stars Will Ferrell and Mark Wahlberg in the comedy “Daddy’s Home” with strong results. The look at a stepfather’s attempts to outshine his wife’s stud of a first husband came in second with a healthy $38.8 million from 3,271 theaters. That was far above projections which had the picture opening in the $20 million range. “Daddy’s Home” carries a $50 million budget.
Paramount Vice-Chairman Rob Moore said that some on his team questioned whether or not it was wise to debut the film so soon after “The Force Awakens,” but he noted that films such as “Sherlock Holmes” and “Alvin and the Chipmunks: The Squeakquel” still managed to do hefty business in 2009 despite bowing in the wake of “Avatar.”
“What brings people to the movies is a good experience,” reasoned Moore. “If they go to a movie and they like it, they’re more likely to go again.”
Fox also scored with “Joy,” a rag-tag biopic about the creator of the Miracle Mop, that earned $17.5 million from 2,896 theaters. The $60 million film re-teams the “Silver Linings Playbook” cadre of Jennifer Lawrence, Robert De Niro, and Bradley Cooper with director David O. Russell. It is expected to be a leading Oscar contender.
“It’s an emotional tale of empowerment and the pursuit of the American dream and those are themes that people just gravitate towards,” said Chris Aronson, the head of Fox’s domestic distribution.
But “Point Break,” a remake of the 1991 Kathryn Bigelow cult favorite, wiped out. The $105 million action flick eked out $10.2 million from 2,910 venues. The Chinese-American co-production will look abroad for salvation. It has earned a solid $40 million in China, where it opened on Dec. 3. Warner Bros., which has had a horrific year at the box office, can at least content itself with the fact that it’s only a gun for hire on this one. Alcon Entertainment and DMG Entertainment financed “Point Break.” Foreign pre-sales will limit Alcon’s financial exposure, according to insiders.
Sony’s Will Smith NFL drama “Concussion” nabbed $11 million across 2,841 locations. L Star Capital and Village Roadshow co-financed “Concussion,” which has a $35 million budget. The studio was particularly pleased with the film’s A CinemaScore rating, which signals word-of-mouth could be robust despite the fact that the picture paints a devastating portrait of professional football as indifferent to the well-being of its players. Smith’s personal charisma and work as a crusading doctor may be key.
“Everybody loves Will’s performance,” said Rory Bruer, Sony’s distribution chief, adding “We’re just really in the zone going forward.”
In its second weekend of release, Universal’s “Sisters” barely dropped from its debut, picking up $13.9 million to drive the Tina Fey and Amy Poehler comedy’s North American haul to $37.2 million. Fox’s “Alvin and the Chipmunks: The Road Chip” also showed some endurance, adding $12.7 million to its $39.4 million domestic gross.
Paramount’s “The Big Short” expanded from eight theaters to 1,585 locations on Wednesday, picking up $14.5 million for the five day period. Its gross stands at just over $16 million and a further expansion is planned for Jan. 8, at which point the comedy about the financial collapse will be in roughly 2,500 theaters.
In limited release, the Weinstein Company’s 70 MM “road show” version of “The Hateful Eight” racked up a sturdy $4.6 million from 100 locations for a $45,365 per-screen average. The revisionist Western from Quentin Tarantino will expand on Jan. 1.
“We were doing capacity business,” said Erik Lomis, the Weinstein Company’s distribution head. “You’re looking at a movie with broader appeal than just to the Tarantino fans.”
Fox’s “The Revenant” also did well in a handful of theaters. The blood-drenched revenge epic picked up $471,000 from four locations, for a per-screen average of $117,750. That’s the second best average of the year, behind only “Steve Jobs” with $130,381. But “The Revenant” will need to resonate with mainstream crowds if it hopes to recoup its $135 million budget — something “Steve Jobs” failed to do. Leonardo DiCaprio stars in the film as an wilderness guide in the 1800s who is abandoned by his colleagues after a savage bear attack.
Fox’s Aronson believes the picture, which had a punishing shoot that took cast and crew to remote locations in Canada and Argentina, will be able to build on its limited release to find broader success.
“From a filmmaking standpoint, it’s such a remarkable achievement,” he said. “It’s such a compelling film about survival and revenge and it’s so realistic. It takes you back to what life might have been like then.”
Final results are still being calculated, but it looks like ticket sales will top out at $300 million, a Christmas record and the second biggest movie-going weekend in history. Those kinds of numbers have many studio chiefs feeling festive this holiday season. It’s also pushed the domestic box office ahead of record-setting 2013 to nearly $10.9 billion. That should mean that ticket sales will have no trouble hitting $11 billion for the first time in history.