Weekend Forecast for December 18-20, 2015
By Reagen Sulewski
December 17, 2015
So this is the weekend we've all been waiting for – the release of the latest entry in a decades old franchise, beloved by the young and old alike, with funny creatures and a cultural legacy of its own. I'm speaking, of course, of the latest Alvin and the Chipmunks film.
Okay, okay, stop throwing things. Of course, we're talking about the release of Star Wars: The Force Awakens, the latest in the horribly subtitled tradition of this franchise. Ever since the announcement three years ago that Disney had purchased Lucasfilm for the bargain basement price of $4 billion, people have been awaiting this moment. While that would have been a great price for the merchandising alone, it naturally led to the thoughts of more movies. And how could they not – as it's probably the most valuable IP in film, with the possible exception of the entirety of the Marvel Universe.
I'll actually be discussing very little of the plot of the film itself in this column, for the reasons of a) you probably are already familiar with it as much as you need to be and b) it's largely irrelevant to the film's performance. It's a new Star Wars film, and what it's about isn't going to change your mind about it. What is important is the people behind it, which crucially includes J.J. Abrams, and does not include George Lucas, who has been rather politely shown the door, thanks for the notes *rip*. So now we find ourselves in a remarkable similar situation to 16 years ago, with the first new Star Wars film in over a decade, a Jurassic Park film holding the box office record, and a recent ramp up of (high-end) box office opening weekends. If boy bands were popular again, I'd be prepared to call it spooky.
And while, after the prequels, Star Wars fans have shown some enthusiasm for new films sans-Lucas and are quite glad to be rid of him (not that I blame them, but that's gratitude for you), it's created one rather large mass-forgetting, as history repeats in other ways, including the largest exhibition of begging the question that we've seen in some time.
Essentially the argument goes like this (stop me if you've heard this before): Star Wars is the biggest, bestest franchise there is, so whatever the record is at any one time, that is the mark that Star Wars will beat. If you may recall, this was the same thing that was said around the time of the release of The Phantom Menace, when the Lost World's two-year old $92 million four-day total was taken as a given to be beaten, let alone its $75 million three day total. With hype ratcheted up to epic proportions, the nerds decided to start doing touchdown dances before they had scored, and basically told people to stay away by saying that they were going to buy up all the tickets. Theaters threw in 24/7 showings for the first weekend in anticipating of the throngs... which ended up with a $64 million start, albeit with a then-record first day of $28 million. This would be the first evidence than general appeal is better than the specific, but perhaps not the last.