Star Wars obliterated the box office
Which was not really unexpected. I think we all knew this was going to be an all-time big movie, but it didn’t just break the opening weekend box office records, it DESTROYED them. When Jurassic World took down The Avengers 2012 opening weekend record of $207.4 million, it did so by a statistically negligible margin of $1.4 million. So it seemed, after two movies topped $200 million on opening weekend, that the ceiling for “how big can a movie get” was about $210 million. Haha, we were so young and naïve then.
Star Wars: The Force Awakens opened with a projected $238 million. When the actuals come in, it will probably land somewhere in the $245 million range. It’s not just breaking Jurassic World’s record, it’s crushing it to death with a metric ton of cash. Then it’s burying the carcass of the dead record in the woods. Then it’s sh*tting on its grave. The Force Awakens’ opening weekend is so big you have to wonder if anything will ever top it. Someday, probably, another Star Wars movie, but I don’t think anything else has a chance of reaching these heights.
The Force Awakens took down every standing opening weekend record, and it did so by huge margins across the board. Biggest Thursday night previews with $57 million, taking down Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2 ($43.5 million), although to be fair, Star Wars’ Thursday night was jumped up by 7 PM screenings, marathon tickets, and IMAX. Speaking of IMAX, new biggest IMAX opening, $30.1 million (over Jurassic World’s $20.9 million), and it also bagged the Friday record with $120.5 million (over Deathly Hallow’s $91 million). It also has the biggest December opening, blowing away The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey’s $84.62 million record.
The only thing Disney has to watch out for are the demographics. The Force Awakens audience skewed heavily male (69%), and predominately adult (53% over 25). The longevity of the franchise will depend on attracting more women and kids, but with the new franchise clearly centering on Daisy Ridley’s Rey—and first “anthology” spin off, Rogue One, on Felicity Jones’s mystery heroine—I think we’ll see the female audience multiply between now and Episode VIII, due in 2017. And kids don’t hype up the same way adults do. Kids will latch on as they have more toys and animated shows to occupy them between movie installments. So they should be fine, but The Force Awakens, in and of itself, didn’t do much to dispel the image of the older male nerd as the Star Wars audience.
A few months ago I told Lainey that if there’s any justice, The Force Awakens will be a rare blockbuster nominee for the Best Picture Oscar. But then two things happened: 1) The Force Awakens is good but not great, and 2) Mad Max: Fury Road started winning a lot of end-year awards. 2015 is an EXCEPTIONAL year for film, where there are really-good-to-actually-great examples of film in each category. Want to nominate a genre film? You’ve got Mad Max, Ex Machina, and The Martian. Want a populist pick? Try Mad Max, Creed, or The Martian. Want a blockbuster? Mad Max and The Martian posted up serious box office.
See the theme? Mad Max: Fury Road is sucking up a lot of the air in the room. I expect The Force Awakens will bag some technical nominations, like VFX, sound editing/mixing, and original score. It may also compete in the editing category. But Best Picture? If it pulls that nomination, it’s purely a sentimental pick. It will probably rate highly with the younger voters, but the Old Fart Brigade sees Star Wars as the beginning of the end of the old Hollywood they knew, so I don’t think they’ll go for it, especially as The Force Awakens isn’t as tight as Mad Max and Creed. It’s like the third or fourth best blockbuster of the year, THAT is how good 2015 was at the movies.