Box Office: ‘Star Wars’ Crosses $1 Billion Globally at Record Pace

Star Wars Episode VII The Force
Courtesy of Disney/Lucas FIlm

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.


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  1. Steve Weston says:

    At last, and the long wait is over. My very young son and I saw the first “Star Wars” episode; he’s 46 years of age, and I won’t divulge my own (OK, 75). What really strikes me is John Williams’ film score, so developed in his expressiveness over the years and filled with subtle vibrancy. I’ll ever be grateful that this galaxy far, far away has come close to us. Steve Weston

  2. loco73 says:

    Reading through some of these comments I must confess I am a bit puzzled. I understand fans being happy that the movie they had been waiting for, for a long time and finally got to see is doing well, as I guess this bodes well, more than well actually, for the future of the Star Wars franchise. I get that, I myself have seen “Star Wars The Force Awakens” twice already, and plan to see it one more time, hopefully in IMAX.

    But a lot of this celebratory attitude and even euphoria seems somewhat misguided. I hope the people posting here do understand, that unless you are a Disney or Lucasfilm shareholder, or the top management at both Disney and Lucasfilm, you will not be seeing a single cent of that $ 1billion dollars (and counting) in profits the movie is making. That money is not meant for you, it is meant for all the investing parties in the franchise . Even most of the people that worked behind the scenes on this movie will see little if any of that money going their way…

    And what is with this vitriolic and nasty attitude and responses against people who disagree about the movie As I’ve said, I have watched the movie twice. I thought it was an ok, decent movie. I don’t hate it or anything, but I didn’t think it was a masterpiece. It most definitely has it flaws and shortcomings, amongst which the most glaring has been discussed here, the overreliance on the nostalgia factor, sometimes to the point that it actually looks and feels like a re-boot, or even carbon copy of “A New Hope”. That doesn’t mean the movie is awful. And saying that it is better than the Prequel Trilogy isn’t saying much. At this point probably a brainfart is better…and that is coming from someone who doesn’t hate those movies!

    You know what I am actually curious about. I would like to see the paycheques that the cast got and what was the difference between what Oscar Isaac, John Boyeg and Daisy Ridley got paid versus what Harrison Ford got paid? He must have been the most expensive of the bunch since he took the most convincing to return and reprise the role of Han Solo…Because for me one of the strong points of “The Force Awakens” ,was the new cast!

    So let’s enjoy the movie, or not, and keep things in perspective…

    • Adoy says:

      According to an article I read (could have been a Variety article), John Boyega and Daisy Ridley were paid in the low-six-figure range ($200k-$300k). Adam Driver and Oscar Issac were paid high six figures, while Mark Hamill and Carrie Fisher took home salaries in the low-seven-figure range. Harrison Ford was paid in the $10-$20 million range, plus a percentage of the movie’s box office haul. It is very likely that all the principal cast will receive pay rises for the sequels.

  3. Scott says:

    Happy for Star Wars! JJ did a phenomenal job, and once again he cast an incredible ensemble of young actors. Daisy Ridley was everything she needed to be and gave an awesome performance. John Boyega was the right man for the job, he was excellent. Oscar Issac , wonderful as hot shot pilot Poe Dameron. Adam Driver is going to be a superstar! He gave a tortured multi-layered performance, that gave humanity to the evil force that is Kylo Ren-Ben Solo.You could feel the conflict within him Star Wars is in good hands for years to come. Can’t wait for Rian Johnsons episode 8!

    • loco73 says:

      Thanks for the information. And yes, I guess you are right, hopefully given the financial success of the movie, Daisy Ridley, John Boyega and Oscar Isaac, will command higher salaries.

  4. JimG. says:

    I’m not sure how much Joy is expected to be an Oscar nomination leader. Maybe at one point, but it’s been passed over repeatedly. At most Actress and Screenplay and even they are very iffy. Unless the guilds have a surprise in store in the coming days don’t expect the see the film pop up in that many categories on the 14th.

  5. Maxx Steele says:

    One billion dollars!!! or $1,000,000,000.00!!!
    To ALL the REDNECKS/PECKERWOODS/CRACKAS that whined about a Black Man starring in the most commercially successful movie of all time. I have 1/one thing to say to you…

    One billion dollars!!! or $1,000,000,000.00!!!

    So, keep your TWO CENTS/ $0.02 to yourselves and your $20 in your pockets, then go buy some Wild Irish Rose, Marlboros and a Battle Flag (I’ll use ti for toilet paper)!!!


    Wow! Wow!Wow! It certainly was a Merry Christmas for most films at the box office. So elated for STAR WARS. Some people actually thought it would flop because the main stars and heroes of the film are a black guy and a white girl. HAPPINESS! !!!!!! Seeing them break box office records left and right does a heart good. All I can do is smile and LOL everytime they bust through the glass box office ceiling of long held records.
    “DAD WARS” aka DADDY’S HOME is having a phenomenal run at the box office this weekend- $40 million!!!!. It exceeded expectations by nearly tripling weekend forecasts, almost making back its budget in a single weekend. We’re looking at what could end up being the biggest comedy hit of 2015!
    But, I think potential Oscar nominee and winner, THE BIG SHORT, had the most impressive performance of films making the weekend top ten. Making almost 11 million dollars on a weekend with 4 new films opening in wide release, while also being in half the amount of theaters is nothing short of a Christmas Miracle! Brad Pitt, Christian Bale, and Ryan Gosling have a potential monster hit on their hands, as well as a potential BEST PICTURE winner.

  7. Bill B. says:

    Looking back not too long ago, it seems odd to me that something as familiar, repetitive and unoriginal as Jurassic World would make that kind of money. It was okay, but been there, done that too many times. Haven’t seen Star Wars, so no comment, but glad that Sisters & Joy didn’t get lost in the shuffle. I am not remotely surprised at the failure of Point Break. It had flop written all over it from day one. I’m not a fan of the original, but it’s a beloved cult picture and you don’t remake those. And make money. I can’t imagine many are waiting to run out to see remakes of The Big Lebowski or Dazed & Confused or Donnie Darko or The Rocky Horror Picture Show, etc., though I wouldn’t be surprised if someday someone tries to re-do the last named.

    • me says:

      When you hear Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony again, do you turn it off immediately because it’s “familiar, repetitive and unoriginal”? When you go to a restaurant, do you order something completely different every single time, because ordering the steak again would be “familiar, repetitive and unoriginal”? When you see Lucy drinking Vitameatavegamin for the millionth time, do you keep a big sour frown on your face because it’s “familiar, repetitive and unoriginal”?

      More important, I can’t believe how many times you said “me” and “I” in one single post, as if your word was the definitive opinion. As someone who HAS seen SW, I can assure you: it was more entertaining, uplifting, and just plain fun than what you just spent your time on. Perhaps you should go see it and keep an open mind.

      • me says:

        You presented your opinions as fact, not opinion (as if we cared what you thought either way). Thus how “I” and everyone else KNOW that you are one. More important, why so angry at Christmas time? This can’t be the first time someone has disagreed with you or called you a blowhard. It CAN’T be.

      • Bill B. says:

        It’s my opinion. Who else should I refer to?! “I” think you are an asshole.

  8. ML says:

    Man, one billion USD, that’s more than many countries’ Gross National Product! I wonder how many children that could feed. But the money’s only going to a few people – mostly old fat white men. I’m not sure I can justify all this. Not to mention all the Star Wars merchandise that is already flooding the market place cereal, chocolate, band aids. There was even a Christmas church service for Star Wars fans.
    I’m not sure if this is supposed to inspire filmmakers or hype the film more. Is it supposed to prove capitalism works? I’m all for capitalism, but wow.

  9. Mr Furious says:

    Maybe someday a good movie will make that much money.

  10. Alex says:

    “Avatar” made $2.788 billion at the box office, can “Star Wars” beat that?

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