Weekend Forecast for December 18-20, 2015

By Reagen Sulewski

December 17, 2015

I told you not to taunt the Empire!

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There was of course the problem of the movies themselves, which took some time to be seen for the exercises in mediocrity that they were, though they were still able to limp home to finish the trilogy with a decent box office. Fans were more than happy to say goodbye to Lucas, but let us not forget that *at the time*, fans had zero reservations about how great the films would obviously be, and even professional critics, scared into submission by throngs of fans or just sucked in by the novelty, gave the film strong reviews – its Rotten Tomatoes score was in the 90s upon release, though it's since sunk below 60. Grains of salt are at the ready for reviews of this film, as anything compared to a steaming plate of garbage is going to get a good review.

This is the primary reason I don't particularly need to know how good the film is or isn't – while it's almost certainly better than The Phantom Menace *is*, it can't be better than people thought The Phantom Menace would *be*. We've already seen what maximum hype and fan involvement looks like, and it's sort of scary to most people. Star Wars fans are taking this a referendum on their standing within the nerd community, and while they likely are kings of that particular heap, it doesn't beat appealing to absolutely everyone, and not pushing out non-hardcores.


The hype pump has been primed this time by similar things – endless presales, 24/7 screenings, and merchandising up the wazoo, plus testimonials from all involved, the return of original characters and actors, J.J. being a being a better director, great reactions from the premiere... it's all true – and it's all irrelevant, since none of this was any different from The Phantom Menace's release. Indeed, now there is at least a niggling doubt in the back of a lot of people that a Star Wars movie *could* be bad, which is not anything that any true fan considered possible in 1999. Seriously, I remember the hate mail from last time.

A bigger issue, and the majority of the reason that it won't break the all-time record for an opening weekend is the opening weekend itself. The week before Christmas has become a fairly popular one for releasing tentpole films, though not because of the weekend itself. Rather, it's because of what comes after it, the bonanza of box office otherwise known as Christmas Week, where everyone has the chance to see multiple films, and weekdays act like Sundays for box office. This comes at a slight cost, in that opening weekends are suppressed. There's not much coincidence in the fact that the last two all-time box office champs are December releases that rode what was seen as pedestrian opening weekends to enormous final totals.

This is because movie going habits are primarily dependent on time. That's why things like Halloween night and July 4th being on a Saturday are such murder on numbers – they pull people away who don't get a second chance to watch a movie, or when they do, see a different one. This coming two weeks is the opposite, with everyone having extra time and going back again and again over the week. Part of this behavior will be exhibited by people putting off their viewing of Star Wars until they're with families. While the die-hards will be out in force for the Thursday evening screenings (something that didn't exist then, as opening night has crept from 12:01 a.m. Friday to 7 p.m. Thursday), the crush of pre-sales will front load like few other films before. No one's trying for a screening on Sunday as their first viewing if they're truly passionate. Additionally, passionate dollars spend the same as spur-of-the-moment dollars, which is why Jurassic World was able to surprise so well this summer, and why it's likely to retain that title.

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