‘Star Wars’ Becomes the Highest-Grossing Film in U.S. History

Star Wars The Force Awakens Rey
Courtesy of Disney

All hail the king.

Star Wars: The Force Awakens” has soared past “Avatar” to become the top-grossing film in North America. On Wednesday, the seventh film in the space opera saga surpassed “Avatar’s” $760.5 million lifetime gross in just 20 days of release.

“We are proud of these records, but know that they would not be possible without fans’ enthusiasm and continued support,” Disney said in a statement. “We feel it here and it drives us every day, and it will continue to in the very bright future of Star Wars. There has indeed been an awakening — and it’s all thanks to you.”

One important caveat is that this massive haul does not account for inflation. When pricing increases are factored in, “Gone With the Wind” remains the highest-grossing film in history with $1.7 billion and the first “Star Wars” is runner-up with $1.5 billion. “Star Wars: The Force Awakens” is in 21st place behind classics such as “The Sound of Music,” “E.T.: The Extra Terrestrial” and “Titanic.”

Globally, “Star Wars: The Force Awakens” ranks as the fourth highest-grossing pic in history, having earned $1.5 billion worldwide. It opens this weekend in China, the world’s second-biggest market for film. Depending on how enthusiastically it is received in the People’s Republic, “The Force Awakens” could shoot past “Avatar’s” record $2.8 billion global haul.

Disney, the studio behind “The Force Awakens,” spent more than $4 billion in 2012 to purchase Lucasfilm and with it the rights to the “Star Wars” and “Indiana Jones” franchises. It then announced plans to release a new trilogy of films, as well as several spinoffs and prequels. Beyond its box office success, “The Force Awakens” seems to have gotten things off on the right foot. The sequel and its director J.J. Abrams have been praised for recapturing the spirit of adventure that helped make George Lucas’ initial three films cultural touchstones for a generation of moviegoers.

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  1. Veronica Daze says:

    The new Star Wars film was all right. I enjoyed the movie but by no means is the quality of the movie better than Avatar and Titanic. There is a difference in time periods on the cost of tickets. It should be adjusted in my opinion to give a fair accounting.

  2. The movie measuring stick is flawed – there would be zero need to adjust for inflation if they measure by viewers. Music industry measures by albums sold. can’t control the cost of a CD at every location nor can you control or measure of time viewer that saw a matinee or weekend or in LA or in podunk-ville.

    • jedi77 says:

      You probably could, but it would render historic data obselete, which is one of many reasons it isn’t done.

      I agree though, tickets sold should be measured. That’s the only real constant.

  3. The kids need lightsaber training -Samuel l. Jackson

  4. jedi77 says:

    You’re ruining the fun for everyone, you know that right?

    So it isn’t comparable, so it’s apples and oranges, so the average ticket price has increased, so there are more theatres in China now than there were 10 years.

    We still need something to measure, and since dollars is the only measurement we have historically, that’s what it is.

  5. danR says:

    THX 1138 was Lucas’ only genuine science fiction movie. I wonder if he’ll ever make another of its quality.

  6. Guy says:

    GWTW was in theaters for 4 years on it’s initial release. It was then re-released something like 8 times in theaters over following several decades. Those numbers are so skewed. When The Force Awakens hits the top, it actually is the top.

  7. Ashley Cuadra says:

    Really avatar last years in the box office and returning so why u people care about money it’s nothing just respect the films instead

  8. ratty223 says:

    A lot of money for such a bad movie.

  9. Lenny says:

    Star Wars the force awakens is the worst movie of all time and avatar is number as the worst movie of all time. Star Wars is ruined and no one wanted a girl Jedi. Boooo! Star Wars sucks.

  10. AYU_Dyah says:

    Oh and once again, please remember dear Disney and LucasFilm.

    Avatar became the 2,8 billion dollars movie for a strong reason.

    It offered NEW TECHNOLOGY and BREAKTHROUGH for maximizing 3D cinematic experiences. People SHOULD SEE Avatar on the big screen, because its sensation would fade if audiences saw it in bootleg or piracy version.

    While Force Awakens offers nothing new, either story-wise or cinematic experience. I tried to compare the sensation I felt by watching Force Awakens, both in theater or in pirated version.

    For general audiences, they could still enjoy Force Awakens by watching the pirated version. I’m not promoting, endorsing or suggesting people to watch pirated version of Force Awakens.

    I just tried to analyze and compare the box office chance for Force Awakens. And remember again, China is the largest market and producer for pirated products in the world.

  11. AYU_Dyah says:

    With only China left in international market, it is impossible for Force Awakens to surpass Avatar’s 2,8 billion global haul. Force may awakens people of Republic to give their money for maximum 300 million dollars, and with that commercial achievement, Force Awakens only will get 2 billion dollars world wide for its entire running.

    Why people are so obsessed with expectation that Force Awakens could break Avatar’s global box office revenue? Disney and Lucas Film will still have a chance to break whatever records, since they still have NUMEROUS Star-Wars related movies in the next 7 years!!

    Remember that market of Hong Kong, South Korea, Japan, India, and South East Asia did not so excited about Force Awakens. Because Asian don’t have so much emotional bound with Star Wars. But, Force Awakens have succeeded to be an excellent set-up and it made Asia market become more familiar with Star Wars as a brand.

    Don’t be too obsess and greedy with record breaking, Disney & LucasFilm. Just don’t. Just focus on building a great story and you can break any record you want in the third film of Star Wars.

  12. Tedstar says:

    It does seem a lttle exaggerated Jedi77, doesn’t it? But remember: Star Wars 7 is in theaters for not even a month. “Shoot past” might seem a bit too much, yet there is a solid chance of taking the record.

    • William says:

      I’m sure they would love to break the record but where are you getting that Disney and Lucasfilm are obsessed? If anyone is its the Fans and news outlets.

    • Jedi77 says:

      Still, It has $200 million left in the US, the same abroad, maybe 250. So it’s about 2 billion plus China.

      • Scott says:

        Where are you getting your numbers from?
        Avatar grossed $2.78 billion globally, $760.5 million in 48 weeks domestically. Stars wars in 20 days has grossed $1.58 billion globally and $758.2 domestically(North America). Those numbers is as of today 1/06/2016. Either your math sucks or your seeing numbers from last week. Maybe before you call out the “journalists”, you should do your own investigative journalism.

  13. Jedi77 says:

    Exactly how could it “shoot past” Avatar at the worldwide box office? Look at the numbers. It just isn’t possible.
    It’s gonna be lucky to “shoot past” Titanic.

    Where do Variety get their “journalists”?

    • Scott says:

      And you do realize that Avatar was in theaters for 48 weeks.

      • Scott says:

        Are you serious? Apologize? Apologize to you for your comment not being clear. You posted that “it has $200 million left in the US, the same abroad, maybe 250. So it’s about 2 billion plus china.” Those are your words, not mine. Be more clear next time. But for me to apologize, please… The only thing I’m going to apologize for is that I posted it was in theaters for 48 weeks, I meant 46 weeks. And whether Star Wars is “frontloaded” or not, it took Avatar 46 weeks in theaters, combining the initial release and the re-release because that does matter to build that total of $2.78 billion. I personally can care less if it beats avatar or not, with the tag of Jedi77, I would figure that you would be more passionate whether it can your not. The only reason I posted a comment to begin with was cause you called out the journalists when your the one that needed to be called out on.

      • jedi77 says:

        Doesn’t matter. Star Wars is what you call “frontloaded”. It tops quickly and then peters out. Avatar was a phenomenon that kept growing. So there is no comparison.

        But you’re welcome to apologise when Star Wars ends up making exactly $200 million more (as of january 6 numbers) in the US, the same abroad, maybe 250. So it’s about 2 billion plus China.

      • Boxofficemojo.com shows Avatar played for 34 weeks on its initial release and another 12 weeks for a special edition re-release a year later. It is my opinion this will be the reason The Force Awakens does not pass Avatar at this time. TFA will not run that long on the initial release as we already have a April 5th release date for Blu Ray and DVD. Generally speaking most movies are available to rent or buy “on demand” or digital download several weeks before the disc release.

        The Force Awakens does have a shot at becoming the first film to surpass one billion dollars at the domestic and international box office. The upcoming China release almost assures one billion internationally. The next two weeks in the United States will determine if it can reach that number domestically.

      • scobro828 says:

        Wow. Was it really? I knew it was in the theaters for awhile but had no idea it was 48 weeks. I never knew that.

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