The 12 Days of Box Office - Day One

By David Mumpower

December 22, 2015

Brienne of Tarth had absolutely no 'face' time.

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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.

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