The 12 Days of Box Office - Day 11
By David Mumpower
January 1, 2016

This dance revue just got weird.

Welcome to 2016! Let’s start with a pop quiz, hotshot. What was the most popular movie of last year? You’re already in the habit of calling 2015 last year, aren’t you? The answer depends on how big a pedant you are.

For example, do you consider American Sniper the most popular film of 2014? That film was released in a handful of theaters in order to qualify for Oscar consideration, which proved to be a savvy ploy since it earned six nominations and one win (for Best Sound Editing). During calendar year 2014, the film earned a whopping $1.3 million, which puts it in Oogieloves and the Big Balloon Adventure territory. The other $349 million occurred during calendar year 2015. So, it performed the best out of all 2014 releases, but it was not the strongest performer in 2014. That honor belongs to The Hunger Games - Mockingjay Part 1. I think you see where I’m going with this.

The best in-year performer of 2014 grossed $337 million. That number would have placed it slightly ahead of Minions for seventh place for films that earned revenue in calendar year 2015 – and yes, I’m including American Sniper in that calculation. Even that’s a bit tricky since Mockingjay Part 1 grossed a significant amount of its revenue in 2015. Given the above, it’s understandable why people rarely make this distinction.

If you ever want to trip up your friends, however, the quickest way to do so is to ask them to name the top performer of calendar year 2015. While common sense would dictate that the answer is Star Wars: The Force Awakens, a comically insignificant amount of box office renders this statement incorrect. As the clock struck midnight and people drunkenly rang in the New Year, the 2015 box office race ended literally hours too soon for the rightful champion to claim the throne. In calendar year 2015, Jurassic World grossed $652.3 million. That number places it – I kid you not - $305,042 ahead of Star Wars 7. We’re discussing two films with domestic ticket sales in the range of 75 million, and the final difference involves less than 36,000 tickets. This is the equivalent of a photo finish in a triathalon.

Of course, most of the commentary above is a joke. It’s technically accurate, but comically beside the point. What the focus should be is that Star Wars: The Force Awakens earned almost as much business in two weeks and five hours as Jurassic World managed in 161 days. This is a great time to remind you that at the close of business yesterday, Jurassic World stood as the third most popular film of all-time domestically. By the time you read this, it’s safe to say that Star Wars: The Force Awakens has pushed it to fourth…and Titanic to third. Yes, for the first time since January of 1998, Titanic is not one of the two most popular films ever released.

I mentioned last week that things would happen fast, but even I am taken aback by the escape velocity of Star Wars. Yesterday I mentioned that a performance of $22.5 million would enable it to overtake The Avengers to become the most successful Disney film ever. I also used the word “ambition” in evaluating the possibility of it reaching $22.5 million. It earned $22.9 million. That’s a decline of only 18% on one of the strongest box office anti-holidays on the box office calendar. It held better than some films performing at a much smaller scale, which are ostensibly appealing to the same four quadrants, such as The Hunger Games – Mockingjay Part 2.

There was a point during the release of Titanic and Avatar where people started to realize they weren’t going to slow down, even after the holidays. I had not expected to put Star Wars: The Force Awakens into this category, since all of the prequels flamed out fairly quickly, all things considered. I’m not ready to reverse course on this opinion, as it’s actually matching and occasionally even surpassing the pace of Avatar despite being on a much larger scale.

In terms of Christmas Eve to New Year’s Eve hold, Avatar wins handily. It actually increased 32% from $11.2 million to $14.7 million. Star Wars: The Force Awakens fell 16% from $27.4 million to $22.9 million from Christmas Eve to New Year’s Eve. If we look at SW: TFA’s hold from December 30th to December 31st, however, it declined only 18%, while Avatar dropped 20%. To a larger point, Star Wars is earning $8 million more daily than Avatar, and the gap between them is less than $110 million. Star Wars: The Force Awakens is poised to obliterate that gap during the weekend. If it falls at the same rate as Avatar, it’ll be the box office king in 48 hours.

Star Wars: The Force Awakens is going to do what no film has ever done before – and in only two and a half weeks. There will never be a better example of the 12 days of box office.