So once again, Disney — which prior to this year had the largest North American opening ever with “The Avengers’ ” $207.4 million take in 2012 — owns the biggest opener in the land.
Based on Monday’s final numbers, “The Force Awakens” also breaks the worldwide record for an opening weekend, with just a tick under $529-million (with an overseas take of $281-million). That edges “Jurassic World,” which amassed a worldwide opening gross of $524.9 million (boosted by $316.1-million overseas). It’s worth noting that the latest Star Wars film has not even opened in China (a massive movie market), where it’s due for release next month.
On behalf of Universal, “Jurassic World” producer Frank Marshall offered a classy tweet as congratulations:
J.J. Abrams’s “Force Awakens” is benefiting from not only decades of Star Wars fandom and nostalgia, but also — unlike the prequels — critical acclaim and positive word of mouth. The film gets an “A” on CinemaScore and an “81” on Metacritic.com.
(It’s worth noting, too, just how big the first Star Wars release was in 1977; that film, later christened “Episode IV — A New Hope,” remains the second-biggest film ever domestically, when numbers are adjusted for inflation; the original “Star Wars” grossed more than $1.48-billion adjusted, second only to 1939’s spectacularly promoted “Gone With the Wind.”)
Numerous other box-office milestones were reached throughout the weekend with the imposing force of a Tauntaun.
On Thursday night, “Force Awakens” grossed $57-million in North American theaters, shattering the record of “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2,” which opened in summer 2011 with an overnight of $43.5 million. Of that $57-million, nearly half came from 3-D screenings, and roughly 10 percent came from IMAX screenings.
By Saturday, “The Force Awakens” broke the domestic record for opening day, grossing $120.5 million Friday, according to studio estimates, which count the Thursday-evening showings as part of a “single” day.
The movie’s massive debut also defies the industry’s conventional wisdom that a winter film could never compete with the opening-weekend box office of a summer smash.
And in a neat bit of symmetry, “The Force Awakens” set records for opening-weekend IMAX totals, both domestically ($30.1-million) and globally ($48-million). Star Wars creator George Lucas was inspired to write of “the Force” by a ’60s film audio clip spoken by Roman Kroitor — co-founder of IMAX.
Disney acquired Lucasfilm just three years ago, for $4-billion. Star Wars content and tie-ins should cover that cost in short order. Disney has at least four more Star Wars films planned, as well as Star Wars-themed amusement parks and other projects that can benefit from the latest Galactic boom.
For now, though, perhaps the biggest financial question becomes: Can the new Star Wars film outpace just its own toy sales, which some estimates are projecting will top $3 billion?