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'Star Wars: The Force Awakens' Crushes Records, Topping Largest Box Office Weekend of All Time

by Brad Brevet
 

 
December 20, 2015

Star Wars: The Force Awakens stormed the box office and walked away with $247.9 million in its first three days domestically (including $57 million in Thursday night "previews") along with another $281 million internationally for a massive $528.9 million worldwide opening. Suffice to say, this shatters the domestic box office opening weekend record of $208.8 million set by Jurassic World earlier this year as well as the worldwide opening weekend record, but the record-breaking doesn't end there.

In just its first day of release Force Awakens brought in $119.1 million setting a new record for the largest Friday, opening day and single day. All on its own, that opening day was also enough to break the previous December opening weekend record of $84.62 million set by The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey in 2012. Additionally, the film now holds the following domestic records:

* The Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows - Part 2 record included midnight only screenings while Force Awakens screenings began at 7 PM on Thursday and included Star Wars marathon ticket sales, tickets that were sold for as much as $59.99 each.
** Holiday is defined as the first Friday in November through New Year's week or weekend.

Domestically, Force Awakens did fall short of one record, the largest Saturday number, which is held by Jurassic World at $69.6 million. However, does anyone think it won't be topping the Monday record of $27.6 million set by Spider-Man 2 back in 2004? Subsequent weekend records are also up for grabs along with the fastest to $300 million and so on, not to mention the overall domestic record currently held by Avatar at $760.5 million.

Based on averages over the past couple of years, a 3-3.5 multiplier doesn't seem out of the realm of possibility, which would put the domestic run somewhere around $714-833 million. However, with Force Awakens playing somewhat similarly to how Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows - Part 2 played during its opening weekend, Potter's 2.5 multiplier can't be overlooked, which would give the film a $565 million domestic run. That said, Potter dipped a massive 72% in its second weekend. With Christmas around the corner, Star Wars definitely won't be dropping that much next weekend, but we're talking about uncharted territory here, which makes a future forecast just as difficult as it was predicting the film's opening weekend.

Internationally Force Awakens brought in $281 million, falling short of Jurassic World's international opening weekend record of $316.1 million, but globally the domestic box office helped propel it to a new worldwide record. With $528.9 million, Force Awakens topped Jurassic World's previous global record by $4.1 million, the difference being the nearly $40 million more Star Wars took in at the domestic box office.

That international opening wasn't short on records either as it included the largest opening weekends of all-time in the UK (4-day), Australia, Russia, Germany, Sweden, Norway, Finland, Austria, Poland (3-day), Denmark (5-day), Romania, Hungary, Bulgaria, Croatia, Ukraine, Iceland, Serbia, New Zealand. Second biggest opening weekend in France, Belgium, Israel and Chile. The top grossing territories were the UK ($50.6M), Germany ($27.5M), France ($22.5M), Australia ($19.6M) and Japan ($13.4M).

Key among this opening is the fact it has not yet opened in China, which generated over $99 million for Jurassic World on its opening weekend. However, as the Wall Street Journal pointed out earlier this week, Star Wars isn't the known quantity in China it is elsewhere in the world. In fact, it wasn't until June of this year that the first three films in the franchise were first screened in China at the Shanghai international film festival and the Star Wars prequels only grossed a combined $18.7 million upon their 1999, 2002 and 2005 release. Disney has done a huge marketing push in China, but we'll have to wait until the weekend of January 9 to see if it pays off.

All that said, there were other films in theaters this weekend. Scoring a second place position, Fox's Alvin and the Chipmunks: The Road Chip brought in $14.2 million, continuing the franchise's declining numbers. Opening weekends for the last two films have dropped 52% (Alvin and the Chipmunks: Chipwrecked) and now 38.5% with respect to their predecessors. If it's any consolation, the film was up against Star Wars and did score an "A-" CinemaScore (an improvement over Chipwrecked), and will likely have a strong hold next weekend if not a possible increase.

Universal's Sisters, starring Tina Fey and Amy Poehler, took third position against the Star Wars juggernaut, bringing in $13.9 million. This is around two million better than This is 40 performed back in 2012, as it played opposite The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey in its second weekend and the weekend opening of Jack Reacher. This is 40 improved on its second weekend by 8% and given both films received relatively similar reviews and Sisters a "B" CinemaScore to 40's "B-", this makes a good case for an apples-to-apples performance. If so, Sisters could be looking at a $75+ million run if it manages This is 40's 5.83 multiplier.

In fifth position, Creed held on well, bringing in another $5 million as its cume climbs to $87.9 million, but things weren't so rosy for In the Heart of the Sea. Ron Howard's latest collaboration with Chris Hemsworth had a hard time standing up to the competition in its second weekend, sinking 69% for a $3.4 million three-day total. The film's cume now stands at $18 million, more or less the same position Hemsworth and Howard's Rush was in after two weeks of wide release.

Not to be overlooked, two Bollywood films took advantage of a prime opportunity for counter-programming with Dilwale and Bajirao Mastani scoring ninth and tenth place positions.

In limited release, Sony Classics opened the much buzzed about Foreign Language Oscar contender Son of Saul in three theaters this weekend where it brought in $37,930 for a per screen average of $12,643. The film probably won't end up reaching more than 125 theaters or so during its release so if it makes it your way you may want to be sure and check it out.

Also this weekend, The Hunger Games: Mockingjay - Part 2 became the sixth 2015 release to cross $250 million domestically and its worldwide cume has now climbed to $595.5 million. The franchise finale, however, still ranks last among its predecessors, currently standing about $100 million behind The Hunger Games' final worldwide total.

Next weekend is going to be an all-out brawl at the box office as no fewer than four new wide releases hit theaters including the Will Ferrell and Mark Wahlberg comedy Daddy's Home, the Point Break remake, Joy starring Jennifer Lawrence and Concussion starring Will Smith. Add to that the nationwide expansion of The Big Short into over 2,200 theaters, the expansion of The Danish Girl into over 400 theaters, the release of Quentin Tarantino's The Hateful Eight into approximately 100 theaters and The Revenant, 45 Years and Anomalisa into limited theaters. If predicting this weekend was difficult, next weekend may be impossible.

For full weekend results click here and stay tuned for weekend actuals on Monday afternoon.

Discuss this story with fellow Box Office Mojo fans on Facebook. On Twitter, follow us at @boxofficemojo and author Brad Brevet at @bradbrevet.



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