One expected (and in some eyes, unfortunate) repercussion of the financial success of J.J. Abrams’ Star Wars: The Force Awakens has been the battle fans have waged between Episode 7 and James Cameron’s Avatar, the current box-office champ. As if audiences couldn’t like both! Many have been tracking the progress of Star Wars, wondering if the sequel had a chance to topple Cameron’s Pandora excursion from the top of the money charts. Well, today’s the day that record falls.
Domestically, anyway. After 20 days in theaters, J.J. Abrams’ Star Wars: The Force Awakens has grossed $758.2 million, meaning Wednesday (today), it will earn enough to now become the highest-grossing domestic earner in the United States, taking the record away from Avatar. THR reports that James Cameron’s film earned $760.5 million over the course of a seven-month span, though part of that earning came from a re-release in theaters. Seeing as how Star Wars has no real competition in the near future, expect it to pass Avatar today, then leave it far in its rear-view mirror by the time all is said and done.
Not that Abrams can really pop all of the champagne corks just yet. Star Wars: The Force Awakens has only claimed Avatar’s domestic record. It’s still about $1.2 billion away from Avatar’s worldwide gross of $2.78 billion dollars, so for the moment, we have two champions on the box office charts.
One main reason for Star Wars’ lower-than-expected global take is the absence of the Chinese market. The Force Awakens will not open in China until January 9, due to a forced blackout on international product which allows Chinese movies to have a better distribution window. This just means that Star Wars could have an instant windfall in its box-office totals once the massive Chinese market is able to check out Abrams’ first Star Wars film. Analysts, according to THR, are estimating that The Force Awakens could earn between $2.2 and $2.4 billion, suggesting it will beat Titanic on the global scale, but not Avatar. We shall see.
And now, the ball is back in James Cameron’s court. The famed director is hard at work on his next Avatar film, however, it’s not expected to reach theaters until December 2017. The director hasn’t filmed an inch of footage. Last we checked, he was still fine tuning the screenplays for what appear to be the next two Avatar films (and possibly more). Can Cameron reclaim the box office crowns by revisiting Pandora? Or will future Star Wars movies be contending with The Force Awakens for box-office supremacy?
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Sean O’Connell is a journalist and CinemaBlend’s Managing Editor. Sean created ReelBlend, which he proudly cohosts with Jake Hamilton and Kevin McCarthy. And he's the author of RELEASE THE SNYDER CUT, the Spider-Man history book WITH GREAT POWER, and an upcoming book about Bruce Willis.