An Irresistible Force Awakens the Box Office
By John Hamann
December 20, 2015
Since it is December, the number we were all waiting was Saturday's result. We knew that advance ticket sales would drive Thursday and Friday results sky-high, but the question for months has been whether Saturday would match the "true Friday" amount or drop significantly due to the calendar configuration. Jurassic World was able to turn a "true Friday" of $63.5 million into a Saturday of $69.6 million. Marvel's Avengers turned its "true Friday" of $62.1 million into a Saturday of $69.6 million. Conversely, due to the huge, pent-up demand, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2 had a "true Friday" of $47.6 million, which slipped further on Saturday to $42.4 million. The biggest December opener, The Hobbit, saw a "true Friday" of $24.1 million but still increased to $27.7 million on Saturday. This tells us that the Saturday amount compared to the Friday amount is more dependent on the film than the calendar configuration.
The Saturday figure for The Force Awakens came in at $68.7 million, an 8% increase over the $63.5 million "true Friday." The record for the biggest Saturday was held by Jurassic World at $69.6 million, and that is about the only record that Star Wars: The Force Awakens didn't steal this weekend. The Saturday showed that it could basically fall apart on Sunday and still easily break the $208.8 million record held by the Jurassic reboot. It certainly did not fall apart, as the estimate for Sunday came in at $48.8 million, estimated to be off 29% compared to Saturday.
That puts the weekend total for Star Wars: The Force Awakens at a best-ever $238 million, beating Jurassic World's shortly held record of $208.8 million not by a million or two, but by a significant $29.2 million. Released to 4,134 venues and 10,000+ screens, The Force Awakens earned an outstanding venue average of $57,571. Jurassic World opened at 140 more venues, had a release date built for a big opening, and had no other opening films to contend with, and yet it still lost this battle by a significant margin. The Force Awakens more than doubled the opening weekend total of Spider-Man, which when it opened to $114.8 million in 2002, changed the box office forever. Now, it is all happening again 13 years later.
How could this possibly happen? How could any film beat the weekend record by such a significant amount? We know the marketing drive by Disney, including things like ComicCon and the release of the first trailer, was downright masterful, but what else did Disney do to make this oh so right? Disney hit all the big marks for a record-breaker. They made Jurassic World's awesome marketing campaign, the best ever since Spider-Man, look silly. They used old-school charm and combined that with modern technology by building a story around original cast members Harrison Ford, Carrie Fisher and Mark Hamill. This means that not only did they have the old-school characters to interest the older demographic, they also brought in new young stars to add a fresh approach.