The 12 Days of Box Office - Day One
By David Mumpower
December 22, 2015

Brienne of Tarth had absolutely no 'face' time.

Welcome to the 15th (!) annual 12 Days of Box Office. That’s 180 days’ worth of analysis of the most unusual box office behavior on the planet. Long time readers know the deal here. As Christmas and New Year’s Day approach, more people enjoy vacation time than at any other point on the annual calendar. And since the only thing preventing consumers from frequenting mother theaters and other entertainment options is free time, movie revenue shoots through the roof over the last 10 days of this year and the first two days of the next one.

This rising tide lifting all boats is an ironclad law of box office behavior that has no exceptions. Ever. During the 12 Days of Box Office, every day will act like a Friday in terms of daily revenue, by which I mean everything will do exceptionally well. That’s why studios release so many films in December. They understand that audiences will discover anything worthy of their attention. At least that’s the theory. I’m about to shock people who’ve been reading BOP for these past 15 years, though.

For the first time ever, I have no absolutely no idea what’s going to happen this week. Just typing those words makes me go a bit crazy, but a film in release has confused and humbled me. Star Wars: The Force Awakens is absolutely eviscerating the box office. Maybe you’ve heard.

The problem is that it has ignored every expected box office behavior to date, which forces me to reevaluate how confident I am that it’ll play by the same rules as prior late December releases. If it does, let’s be honest about the fact that Avatar, the longstanding champion of total domestic box office, is toast. If it doesn’t, we’ll have to add some sort of Jedi-related exception to conventional rules. That one will presumably be predicated on the idea that a film will fade a bit if it starts off like a supernova. At this point, it feels unlikely, though.

On Thursday, the film earned $57 million in only five hours of actual release. That would stand as the 10th biggest December opening ever if the film had stopped there. Star Wars 7 followed up that dazzling feat by grossing $62.1 million on its first Friday. That gave it a grand total of $119.1 million after less than 30 hours of release. To put that total in perspective, consider that it was already the biggest December debut ever by the time the East coast started airing their evening exhibitions.

Please don’t use up all your Wow! exclamations yet. We’ve got more ground to cover.

Every fiber of my being told me that after such a scintillating Friday, The Force Awakens would decline on Saturday. Keeping up that kind of performance is difficult even in the best of circumstances. On the final Saturday before Christmas, it seemed impossible. Films performing with lesser Friday box office tallies struggle to maintain with this calendar configuration, and said holiday configuration is important since the actual dates for Christmas and New Year’s Day fluctuate each year. Some days are better than others.

In 2009, Avatar debuted under the same configuration of the Friday before Christmas. On Saturday, it fell 5 percent from Friday. Yes, some of that was due to a bit of Thursday box office revenue earned prior to the weekend, but it was only dealing with much smaller numbers. Avatar’s best single day of box office was $28.3 million, yet it ran so efficiently for so long that it wound up with a domestic take of $760.5 million, the standing record. By all reason, Star Wars 7 should have dropped on Saturday.

It did not.

The second day take for the presumptive biggest film of 2015 was $68.3 million. A friend actually suggested a total of approximately this amount, and I legitimately snickered. Ostensibly, it reflects a 43 percent drop from Friday. In reality, when we remove the massive amount of Thursday box office, the film EXPANDED 10 percent. On Sunday, its drop was inevitable as the Sunday before Christmas behaves like this in almost every calendar configuration. A daily take of $60.6 million indicated that it was still running white hot. In fact, that’s the biggest Sunday ever, supplanting the former champion, Jurassic World, by $3.3 million. Get used to that statement. You’re going to hear it a lot in the coming days.

I’ll go ahead and spoil yesterday’s results. The Force Awakens earned $40.1 million, thereby becoming the strongest Monday performer ever. It broke the previous record held by Spider-Man 2 by $12.5 million, effectively scorching the competition. It also now owns the four largest single days of December box office, but that's not the most striking achievement.

Let’s describe what has just transpired in the simplest terms. If you look at a weekly calendar of biggest single days of domestic box office, Star Wars 7 already owns four days. That’s over half the week.

Tomorrow, it’ll claim a fifth day. Wednesday and Thursday will remain as the only record days of box office not held by The Force Awakens. And if you’re a Star Wars GFB, the news is even better. The Thursday record is still held by Star Wars: Episode III – Revenge of the Sith. By the time you read tomorrow’s update, the only other film holding a single day box office record will be…The Twilight Saga: Eclipse. This is when Simpsons fans say that they don’t believe in nothing and sign up for law school.

The final Star Wars note for the day is that the film has already earned $300 million by the time you read this. It ended Monday with $288.1 million in domestic receipts. The primary curiosity about Tuesday will be how well it holds. In 2009, Avatar fell a measly 2 percent while the rest of the top ten increased somewhere between 5 and 17 percent. Nine of those ten films earned $3.2 million or less, meaning that The Force Awakens will earn more on its own tomorrow than the entire top ten did in 2009. And I again remind you that the number one of all-time was in its first five days of release at that point.

If The Force Awakens were a piece of metal you tried to touch, it wouldn’t just burn you. You’d lose the chunk of flesh that pressed against it. The one word of caution I’ll offer is that there was a time when The Dark Knight, The Avengers, and Jurassic World all appeared like they had a strong chance of upending Avatar. It’s held off all comers thus far. Star Wars 7 undeniably has it on the ropes, though.

Learning what happens next will make this a historic Twelve Days of Box Office campaign.