The world held its collective breath as it awaited the release of the newest Star Wars movie, whose secrets were kept carefully guarded right up until the premiere. Fans welcomed The Force Awakens with open arms and open wallets – driving its success past that of any film phenomenon in recent history. Having just opened to international fanfare on its first weekend in China, The Force Awakens has proved once again that Star Wars is truly a “Force” to be reckoned with.
The first signs of success began way back on October 19th, when pre-sale tickets became available online. Beating numbers previously set by The Hunger Games selling eight times as many tickets, the demand was so high that several digital ticketing services experienced technical problems.
Now, over the course of its theatrical run, the film has shattered records left and right. With 120.5 million in box office sales, fans made The Force Awakens not only the biggest Friday film ever but also the biggest single-day gross, beating out the previous record holder at $90 million, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2 (2011). Likewise, its Thursday preview intake of $57 million put it well ahead of the previous record holder – also Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2 at $43.5 million. But all this anticipation had to start somewhere – and when we look at how much the first Star Wars made, it’s clear that this was the continuation of an era, rather than the beginning of a new one.
The Force Awakens Compared to Other Star Wars Movies
Back in 1977, Star Wars (since retitled Episode IV: A New Hope) grossed $8.4 million on its opening weekend, and over $289 million during its initial theatrical run. Over the course of the film series, the intake crept upward to $15 million for The Empire Strikes Back and $23 million for Return of the Jedi’s respective opening weekends. As Star Wars found its way into the cultural landscape, so it found its way to box office success.
Those who feared that a December release date would stall the movie did not do so without reason. The previous record holder, 2012’s The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey, set several records at the time of its release including an opening weekend take of $84.62 million. The Force Awakens has trampled all of these records through and through by opening in 4,134 theaters, a $120.5 single day record and a weekend take of $248 million. The film’s opening weekend success nearly matching the take of A New Hope’s entire theatrical run.
Although, it’s difficult to compare the first Star Wars to the new Star Wars in sales; not only is there inflation to consider, but massive differences in budgets is also a telling sign of the status of the franchise at the time, as well as its continuing growth. When George Lucas first started out with A New Hope, he was working with a trivial 11 million dollar budget. Compare this to J.J. Abrams massive 200 million dollar budget today, and the differences in resulting sales is clear. Star Wars has gotten bigger and better with time and it doesn’t appear to be slowing down anytime soon with a movie slated for release every year until at least 2019.
Worldwide, The Force Awakens is likewise, a runaway success. Of the international markets, South Korea is the only country where it did not take the top spot at the box office, and the film just recently opened in China to a $33 million opening day. With its international opening weekend totally, the film quickly passed the $1 billion mark in just twelve days and is currently the second most successful movie of all time trailing Avatar with a current worldwide total is at around $1.9 billion (or about $888 million away from Avatar).
In the nearly 40 years since fans were first introduced to the Star Wars universe, it has grown to be one of the largest and most successful science fiction franchises of all time. Beyond the films, the franchise has spawned a number of TV spin offs like Lego Star Wars and Star Wars Rebels (which are available on Disney XD and DTV), comic book miniseries, as well as toys, books and video games. As most fans who have seen The Force Awakens would agree, the success of this movie is a sign of things to come. Both creatively and financially, good things can be expected from the franchise in the future. Between the classic movies and various expanded universe spinoffs, fans can get their Star Wars fix – that is, until the next film arrives in theaters, making record-breaking history all over again.