‘Star Wars: The Force Awakens’ Heading for Massive $170 Million-Plus Opening

Star Wars Force Awakens
Courtesy of Disney

Star Wars: The Force Awakens” will rack up at least $170 million over its domestic opening weekend when it hits theaters next December, early tracking indicates.

Rival executives privately predict that the film will hit or exceed $200 million and is poised to set a new record for a domestic debut. They note, however, that with a film like “The Force Awakens,” that has nearly universal awareness attached to it, it can be difficult to accurately gauge where the final box office numbers will land.

With a month to go, “The Force Awakens” is already shattering records. The seventh film in the massively popular franchise has generated more than $50 million in advance ticket sales.

Even if an opening weekend record remains elusive, “The Force Awakens” should have no trouble doubling the current high-water mark for a December opening held by 2012’s “The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey” at $84.6 million — giving it roughly $170 million. That would be the fifth-largest opening weekend in history, but $40 million behind “Jurassic World” for the best opening of all time at $208.8 million.

At this point, fan interest appears to be high enough that many in the industry would be shocked if “The Force Awakens” fails to join “Jurassic World” and 2012’s “The Avengers,” which brought in $207.4 million, as the only titles to open above $200 million. “Avengers: Age of Ultron” opened in May with $191.3 million and 2013’s “Iron Man 3” launched with $174.1 million.

It’s certainly shaping up to be what is referred to by movie studios as a “four quadrant” hit — meaning a picture that appeals to all demographic groups. Tracking suggests that interest in the film is nearly evenly split between men and women. It also appears to be a popular choice with both adults and children.

The more conservative forecasters note that no film has ever opened to more than $100 million in December and the Christmas movie-going season contains multiple distractions, such as shopping and traveling. Although the two most successful films of all time — “Avatar” and “Titanic” — opened in December, neither crossed $100 million during its opening weekend.

“Avatar” opened to a respectable $77 million six years ago, but then remained enormously popular for months and wound up with a record $750 million in the U.S. — along with over $2 billion from international markets.

Insiders note that “Star Wars: The Force Awakens'” second week in theaters will provide seven consecutive days during which time a large amount of the population will be free to head to the movies.

Studios have avoided going up against “The Force Awakens” with other tentpole releases on Christmas, although the marketplace will have plenty of high profile wide releases such as Jennifer Lawrence’s “Joy” from Fox, Will Smith’s “Concussion” from Sony, Warner Bros.’ “Point Break” and the Will Ferrell-Mark Wahlberg comedy “Daddy’s Home” from Paramount.

“The Force Awakens” is already the biggest advance seller in the history of online ticketing companies Fandango and MovieTickets.com. Most Imax screenings have sold out, but outside of those premium formats, there are tickets remaining to many shows on opening weekend.

The film kicks off a trilogy of pictures and brings back Harrison Ford, Mark Hamill and Carrie Fisher from the first three “Star Wars” movies, along with new stars Adam Driver, John Boyega and Daisy Ridley. J.J. Abrams directs the film.

There are also planned spinoffs and origin stories expected to debut in the coming years, as Disney and Lucasfilm hope to embrace the Marvel model of building a cinematic universe.

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  1. bambam says:

    But is it any good? I’m sure it won’t be a disaster, it will probably be excellent, and at the worst, very good.

    At his weakest, JJ Abrams’ failures have generally been interesting (Super 8) and his successes (first Star Trek) were thrilling reinventions.

    However, I hope he learned his lesson with the Khan con. Because I don’t want to see a surprise Darth Darth Binks reveal.

    That’s my only reservation, and it’s not an insignificant worry — this had better not be a remake and I had better not see anything resembling Jar Jar (or even JJ Khan) onscreen ever again.

  2. andrew says:

    There’s no competition for this movie, almost literally. The 16 plex in downtown Seattle cleared the board. Chipmunks on 1 screen, the 15 other screens are playing Star Wars. Those are the choices. LOL.

  3. Occultology says:

    Dear 20th Century Fox: The main thing to remember here is this — NEVER give up the Merchandising Rights to the Filmmaker, no matter what. If you hadn’t given this up, to secure the first ‘Star Wars’ sequel from creator George Lucas (‘Empire Strikes Back’) you would still control the greatest film series in motion picture history. Everything you stupidly bequeathed to Lucasfilm Ltd. increased George Lucas’ power, and reduced your own ownership and control of this property. Now Disney reaps the benefits, instead of the greatest film studio of them all. The only way to neuter the Disneyfied ‘Star Wars’ kiddie-babysitting movie machine in the future is to replace its Space Mythos with a more adult, grown-up Science Fiction/Science Fact Epic, and I heartily recommend a lavish film treatment adaptation of the Sumerian Translations of Zachariah Sitchen, starting with “The Lost Book of Enki”. Mankind’s true origins, as put forth in these ancient clay and Jade Tablets, makes for a tantalizing and thought-provoking filmic series. Let Disney’s new ‘Star Wars’ make a big splash in the creative kiddie pool, while Fox gives us the more sophisticated Science Fiction that it is famous for (“Fantastic Voyage”, the original “Planet of the Apes”, the first “Alien”, etc.). Always remember that it is better to give filmmakers more money, than to give them more Ownership Rights. You can always make more money (even “Cleopatra” finally turned a profit) but not if you give away the store to the Producer/Writer/Director in the process.

    • Joom says:

      Considering that it was Lucas’ handling of Star Wars merchandising that revolutionized how the industry viewed it, I doubt 20th Century Fox would have been any better off if they’d held on to the rights themselves.

  4. LOL says:

    Star Wars: Force Awakens is gonna flop. Just wait and see. It looks crap.

  5. Bobby says:

    I think you forget something major in your estimates… A Star Wars fan is not going to see this just once. Should the film prove to be amazing, expect at least 15% of viewers to return for a second screening. And with such a wide demographic (OT Gen X fans and Millennial PT fans), this film literally caters to an audience by default of an age gap between 18-60 years old. $200m is a low estimate for a film with a worldwide release.

    • I know I’ll be there 4 times opening weekend alone. Do they account for that in tracking? I already bought 3 tickets, Marathon, IMAX 3D December 18, and IMAX 3D December 19. I’m already $86 of the opening weekend box office gross, just by myself. I’ll buy my Sunday ticket as we get closer to the release. Although seeing how sales are going I may just have to do that sooner than expected.

      • Well marathon tickets are $50, that’s for 7 movies, so that’s a pretty good deal. Then each IMAX ticket is $18. And James, I love you, you’re a fan! I have seen the 6 Star Wars movies in theaters 138 times I believe it is, all told. I saw TPM and AOTC 53 and 54 times (TPM was 3 times in 3-D much later, though). With TFA, I have no doubt I’ll hit 25 viewings anyway, and 4 opening weekend. I’ll go Sunday too. Who knows, I may go twice on Sunday (my girlfriend will be gone that day), we’ll just see.

      • LOL, three tickets. I am seeing the marathon (with the wife), three viewings on Friday (one with my wife), two on Saturday (one with my wife) and one on Sunday. That put me at a little over $300 for the weekend…if I paid for the marathon tickets)

      • cadavra says:

        $86 for just three tickets? Jesus, are they at least throwing in some free popcorn and soda?

    • Michael says:

      I wouldn’t refer to millenials as PT fans. Many of us were introduced to Star Wars well before Phantom Menace came out, and many of us learned to dislike the prequels once we could see through childhood nostalgia.

      Also, I wouldn’t limit the demographic as you’very done here. You and the article have both ignored minors. Many children are Star Wars fanatics as well, thanks to The Clone Wars and Rebels. Don’t discount the number of kids who will insist upon seeing The Force Awakens or the number of parents who will have to buy tickets for the whole family.

      • Bobby says:

        18-60 isn’t limiting anything. The OT fanbase took their kids to the PT films and I expect both groups will do the same here. It’s how children are introduced to this world. Granted, the exposure is now at an all time high, but I’m counting on people bringing their children, neices and nephews. I didn’t include them in the demographics because, let’s be real here, I don’t know too many parents who would drop off an eight year old for a night out alone of with friends. Bringing kids was implied.

  6. Indy1938 says:

    I’m quite shocked at the numbers these experts predict. 200 million seems very low for a movie of this kind. The force awakens is in a category of its own. Shares no competition. And will play on 90 percent of screens for the first month. IMAX will play this exclusively till March. My prediction is 415 million in domestic sales by Monday morning and 850 million combined world wide sales.

  7. The biggest take-away I see from this article is the even split between men and women — that’s incredible! If that happens, The Force Awakens will EASILY beat Avatar for the biggest movie of all time. It won’t even be close. The only concern I had these past few months thinking about the box office is whether Star Wars can draw enough female interest to soar past $500 million, but when you consider mom’s with kids who want to see it, the date crowd, and regular female moviegoers who want to see it, I think an opening north of $200 million is very much possible and a strong second weekend likely. With the first three weekends and first two weeks all playing like holiday days, it’s going to be a massive first few weeks in theaters. By that point, I think Avatar will already be in sight heading into the new year.

  8. Lisa says:

    Honestly the best marketing for a movie I have ever seen. Everything feels so classy and big

  9. Fish Walls says:

    That would be a terrible opening for a film like this. 250 million MINIMUM

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