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

More cruciually, 'Star Wars: The Force Awakens' meets sky-high expectations, as exhibitors revise predictions upwards

MADRID – Bulwarked by a huge screen-count hike – 1,365 screens – “Star Wars: The Force Awakens” is edging close – as the final results still come in – to an all-time first-day record from its Friday bow in Spain, punching currently the second-best first-day figures for any movie in history in Spain: €3.0 million ($3.3 million).

Spain’s best-ever first-day bar was set at €3.2 million ($3.5 million), notched up by “The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn – Part 2” in 2012.

But not all cinemas had reported Friday figures by early evening Saturday in Spain. So “The Force” will end up just below or above “Breaking Dawn’s” record first-day take.

More to the point, exhibitors were revising longer-term B.O. predictions – opening weekend, final cume –upwards, given “Star Wars’” above-expectation reception by and beyond its core fan-base in Spain.

“With these results, ‘The Force’ should break opening weekend records in Spain,” said Eva Rekettyei, programming manager at Yelmo Cines, one of Spain’s biggest exhibition circuits, adding that final first weekend results could be “much above” €10 million ($11.0 million), which would be by a head an all-time record for Spain.

Current best all time first weekend in Spain is also “Breaking Dawn – Part 2,” at €9.35 million ($10.3 million), per Pau Brunet, at boxoffice.es.

“The Force” created huge expectations. It has not disappointed hard-core fans. If it becomes a mass hit, given Spaniards are accustomed to go to the cinema at Christmas, the film can have more legs than originally expected,” said Isabel Garcia, a programmer at ACEC, a leading Barcelona cinema theater loop.

“The Force’s” massive opening screen count was said to be 16% up on Spain’s biggest opener in screen terms in history, cited as Spanish comedy “Torrente 4,” which bowed on 1,090 screens in 2014.

But it isn’t just Disney’s massive screen occupancy that has told in Spain. Such is “Star Wars’” grip on Spain’s popular imagination, its TV screens and supermarket merchandising shelves that it is totally losing geek status. Anybody who has not caught it or does not feel for the brand threatens to be regarded as a freak.

Two at least, if not three, of the four candidates to govern Spain as its next prime minister after Sunday’s general elections will catch “Star Wars” on Saturday, gaining in street cred. Carlos Boyero, the chief critic at El Pais, Spain’s most influential quality newspaper, became a trending topic in Spain for not liking “Star Wars.”

Reviews in general have been good-to-great. They position “The Force,” moreover, as a film which is both not just for a hard-core fan base and also at the level of the 1977 original, then the biggest movie in film history: “Everything remind you of the original idea…Fans will be enthusiastic. J.J. Abrams vertigo – he’s a master of pacing – will keep normal spectators on the edge of their seats,” wrote Jose Manuel Cuellar, in Spanish newspaper ABC.

“Star Wars: The Force Awakens’ is getting closer to the ‘Avatar’ effect,” said Rekettyei. “I was at a screening on Friday. The audience had waited for the film. It was like a communion of souls before ‘Star Wars,’ very moving.” That said, movie can break out from core demos. “’Star Wars’’ fan phenomenon takes in audiences of many ages. People want to see great adventure films. Harrison Ford has an enormous number of fans, so does J.J. Abrams,” she argued.

“Avatar” remains the highest-grossing movie ever in Spain, with a final €74.6 million ($82.0 million) trawl.

Word-of-mouth from midnight screenings and ones early Friday afternoon was highly impressive. That seems crucial. Historically, front-loaded movie have gradually annulled its effect over the last decades. But such it’s the focus on “Star Wars,” but it is the dominant subject of conversation among Spain’s young.

Early December exhibitor predictions suggested “The Force” could gross a final €30 million-€35 million ($33 million-$37 million) in Spain, ranking only fifth-to-eighth of Spain’s all time biggest hits. Early positive word now suggest “The Force” may have more legs, which bodes well for the film and. crucially, the new franchise.

“The key thing is that ‘Star Wars’ is a great film and hasn’t disappointed,” said Rekettyai.

“’The Force’ can get near €40 million ($44 million),” added Garcia, a result which would make it the fifth highest grossing movie of all time in Spain. And the large question begins to become not if Spain’s Sunday general elections will affect “Star Wars,” but the other way round.

“Star Wars’” performance in Spain looks like one of the best in the Latino world where opening numbers have been generally huge, but not always all time highs. In Mexico, where the movie opened Wednesday midnight, ticket pre-sales were “among the best in history,” said Ramon Ramirez, at Cinepolis, Mexico’s biggest exhibition circuit. “The Force” scored a first-day $3.4 million off 2,850 screens, a record opening day for Disney in Mexico.

“In Mexico, there’s an important and growing base of Star Wars’ fans and, now that the franchise is part of Disney, that adds to a robust infrastructure which means that the franchise is represented by an important quantity of products prior to its bow,” Ramirez added.

As for Brazil, where Hollywood blockbusters are driving 2015 to record annual B.O. heights, “Star Wars” scored the biggest industry opening day ($2.7 million) of all time. In Argentina, where it bowed on 454 screens – half Argentina’s screen park – Wednesday midnight, “Star Wars: The Force Awakens” made a total 112,672 in tix sales, 60% on 3D screens, repping 79% of Thursday admissions, per Argentine box office site Ultracine. Catching Argentina in the depths of summer. “The Force” racked up the biggest opening day in December, though the sixth-best opening day of 2015

THE MOVIES TO BEAT IN SPAIN: TOP FIVE GROSSING FILMS IN SPAIN

1.“Avatar,” 2009, James Cameron, U.S. €74.6 million ($82.1 million)

2.“Spanish Affair,” 2014, Spain, Emilio Martinez Lazaro. €55.2 million ($60.7 million)

3.”The Impossible,” 2012, Spain, Juan Antonio Bayona, €42.4 million ($46.6 million)

4.“Titanic,” 1998, U.S. James Cameron, €41.6 million ($45.8 million)

5.”The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King,” U.S/New Zealand, 2003, €32.9 million ($36.2 million)

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