×

‘Star Wars’ Won’t Be the Only Force at Holiday Box Office

Box office prognosticators are furiously speculating that “Star Wars: The Force Awakens” could soon supplant “Avatar” as the highest-grossing film in history.

The rebirth of the fantasy saga may not quite reach those lofty heights, but the combination of returning cast members like Harrison Ford, merchandising friendly robots such as the cute droid BB-8, and popular director J.J. Abrams are aligning to create the kind of intergalactic smash that arrives only once or twice in a decade.

Some outlets have speculated that the film could break records with a $300 million weekend when it debuts on Dec. 18, although it’s worth noting that no film released in that month has opened to more than $85 million and this Christmas season is a competitive one. Predicting how high it eventually climbs is sure to be a favorite parlor game in Hollywood for the next few months.

Despite the box office muscle the seventh “Star Wars” is sure to exert, studios aren’t exactly giving the fantasy adventure a wide berth. Bigger budget tentpoles like “Mission: Impossible — Rogue Nation” and “Monster Trucks” were moved out to make way for the potential record-breaker. But there are still plenty of next-tier titles launching, such as Universal’s Tina Fey-Amy Poehler comedy “Sisters” on the same day that the Millennium Falcon flies back into theaters, clearly hoping to rope in female audiences whose eyes may glaze over at the mention of Tatooine, Wookies or the Dagobah system.

The following week brings six wide releases including such films as “Alvin and the Chipmunks: The Road Chip,” the Mark Wahlberg-Will Ferrell comedy “Daddy’s Home” and “Concussion,” a drama about head injuries in the NFL that stars Will Smith and is sure to inspire a hundred opinion pieces. That tops the four new wide releases that flooded theaters during the prior year period and surpasses the five wide releases that crowded into theaters in 2013. The arthouse scene will also be competitive, as two notable films debut in limited release — “The Revenant,” a Leonardo DiCaprio adventure film from Oscar-winning director Alejandro González Iñárritu, and “The Hateful Eight,” a Quentin Tarantino Western that is embarking on a special 70mm run sure to get cinephiles’ pulses racing.

Barring a last-minute release date shuffle or two, that’s an awful lot of films vying for attention during a time when fanboys and fangirls, weaned on tales of Luke Skywalker, will be driving the moviegoing conversation.

“‘Star Wars’ is going to be big, but this is always a big moviegoing season,” said Eric Handler, an analyst with MKM Partners. “If the films are good, people will show up.”

Historically, Christmas is among the busiest times of the year for multiplexes. School holidays and work vacations combine to power ticket sales, and with a nice mixture of family films, raunchy comedies, adult dramas, and a return to a galaxy far, far away, this edition should be one of the strongest yet.

Analysts also stress that the presence of a box office leviathan doesn’t cast a shadow over the entire marketplace. Even as “Avatar” went on a record-annihilating tear in 2009, other Christmas releases such as “Sherlock Holmes,” “It’s Complicated,” and “Alvin and the Chipmunks: The Squeakquel” did robust business. The presence of “Star Wars” could even lift up its rivals, bringing more people into theaters where they will be exposed to trailers and posters for other films.

“Big movies don’t always have a destructive impact,” said Phil Contrino, vice president and chief analyst at BoxOffice.com. “Sometimes they fuel box office. When a bunch of customers walk out happy, they’re prone to show up for more movies.”

More Film

  • Tiny: The Life of Erin Blackwell

    Film Review: 'TINY: The Life of Erin Blackwell'

    “Streetwise,”  the classic and haunting 1984 documentary about homeless street kids in Seattle, is a movie that’s now 35 years old. But for anyone who has seen it, the children it’s about — drifters, hustlers, squatters, thieves, prostitutes — remain frozen in time. And none of them was ever more memorable than Tiny, the 14-year-old [...]

  • Animation Studio Fire

    Revenge Motive May Have Sparked Kyoto Animation Arson Attack

    Japanese media is speculating that revenge was the motivation for the arson attack on Kyoto Animation which killed 33 people on Thursday. Investigative sources quoted by Jiji Press on Friday said that the man in custody had a grudge against the studio. “Since [the studio] stole my novel, I poured out the liquid and set [...]

  • Terminator: Dark Fate Gabriel Luna

    'Terminator: Dark Fate' Cast Proud of Latinx Representation in Latest Installment

    The stars of the Tim Miller-directed “Terminator: Dark Fate” stormed the stage of San Diego Comic-Con’s Hall H on Thursday, but it wasn’t until after the panel — which included appearances from Arnold Schwarzenegger and Linda Hamilton — that Natalia Reyes, Gabriel Luna and Diego Boneta reflected on what makes the upcoming installment in the [...]

  • It

    Producer Sues Warner Bros. Over 'It' Film Adaptations

    A producer who developed the original “It” TV miniseries sued Warner Bros. on Thursday, alleging the studio breached his contract by making the films “It” and “It Chapter Two” without him. Frank Konigsberg and Larry Sanitsky were running Telepictures in the early 1980s when they acquired the rights to the Stephen King novel. They developed [...]

  • Animation Studio Fire

    Kyoto Arson Attack: Animation Community Mourns Colleagues

    Thursday’s deadly attack on Japan’s Kyoto Animation studios left many in the animation community shocked and horrified by the loss of 33 of their colleagues. Another 36 people were injured in the attack, which was Japan’s deadliest ever. A suspect was arrested after pouring a flammable liquid inside the building, which caught fire and trapped [...]

  • Nicolas Cage

    Film News Roundup: Nicolas Cage's '10 Double Zero' Completes Financing

    In today’s film news roundup, financing has been secured for a Nicolas Cage police drama, feature drama “Topside” is unveiled and the late Tom Snyder is getting a tribute from his daughter. FINANCING COMPLETED DCR Finance Corp. has signed a deal to complete the financing for Nicolas Cage’s upcoming crime drama “10 Double Zero.” The [...]

  • Matt Damon and Tom McCarthy Team

    Matt Damon Teams with 'Spotlight' Director Tom McCarthy on New Film (EXCLUSIVE)

    Even as buzz grows for his upcoming race car drama “Ford v. Ferrari,” Matt Damon looks to keep the pedal to the metal: the A-lister is set to star in the Participant Media feature film “Stillwater” with Tom McCarthy directing. Damon attached himself in May, and the package was quickly acquired by Participant, who previously [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content