'Phantom Menace' Forecast Special
by Brandon Gray
May 17, 1999
I haven't discussed this on the site yet, because I'm not one to contribute to the overkill of hype, and because it has been obvious from the get-go that this picture will pretty much sell out on its opening weekend.
The only question mark has been the number of theaters. The last I heard was 2,950 theaters and possibly 4,000 to 5,000 screens as it seems George Lucas and Fox have decided to gun for the opening weekend record held by The Lost World.
That picture racked up $72,132,785 Friday-Sunday at about the same period two years ago. It played at 3,281 theaters and on over 6,000 screens, making it's per theater average $21,985 and per screen average about $12,000.
If Star Wars plays at 2,950 theaters, it should handily break that record. Variety reported that there would be seven million seats available per day. Assuming six showings a day, that amounts to about 395 seats per showing per theater. Since this picture is obviously more anticipated than The Lost World was, let's assume it will get a conservative 85% capacity. Average ticket price should be around five dollars, due to the kid appeal. Factor this altogether, and it could make around $90 million Friday-Sunday ($135 million first five days). Then again, that is if the Variety figure is correct.
Now, will it beat Titanic's $600.8 million total gross? Doubtful. Consider this. Though the original Star Wars made around $800 million if you adjust for inflation, The Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi made $432 and $414 million respectively. These totals were also from multiple releases, including the Special Editions. Furthermore, if this picture is more about set-up for the trilogy rather than standing on its own, as reports suggest, then that should prove to limit repeat business beyond the devoted fans.
Editor's Note: Articles published before 2001 were assigned and reported as box office briefings, not a full evaluation or analysis.