What do you get when you mix one of the world's most popular sci-fi fantasy franchises with the world's most effective corporate marketing machine? Audiences willing to turn over ridiculous amounts of money in painfully short amounts of time to create a record breaking box office monster.
In the hands of Disney, Star Wars has reached legendary levels of cash generation and this weekend proved how powerful that 'force' really is. There was no doubt the start of a new trilogy would be huge, but Disney had fans whipped into such a frenzy that Star Wars: The Force Awakens has broken almost every record possible.
Everything from biggest ever December opening, to largest holiday weekend opening, and up to the more prestigious biggest opening day and biggest opening weekend (both of which come with a small asterisk since the movie sort of cheated by including sales from previews as early as 7 PM on Thursday evening, something not included before) were claimed by The Force Awakens' $120.5 million opening day total and $238 million opening weekend total.
It topped other less interesting records which are kind of obvious (biggest PG-13 opening, highest per average theater total, etc.) but suffice to say it is now the big bad record holder to beat for almost everything except highest total domestic gross, which raises an interesting question: does it have the staying power needed to top long term box office grand masters like Avatar, Titanic and Jurassic World?
Clearly the movie is wildly popular, but will it last? Disney's hype had ticket sales front loaded to the hilt, suggesting sales will fall off quickly as is common with other major fantasy franchises. But Star Wars fans are also known for repeat viewings, and with all that extra holiday free time they might be able to keep Force Awakens afloat for a couple more weekends. But will that be enough to push the movie past $650 million to top Jurassic World or $760 million to top Avatar?
Another question is whether or not, adjusted for inflation, this new Star Wars movie can top the original trilogy? Doubtful, given that Star Wars earned over a billion dollars (not included the re-releases in later years) adjusted for 1977 ticket prices, but The Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi each banked in the $700 million ranges after inflation adjustment and that means they could see some competition from this new set of chapters in the saga.
Easy to miss were the other newcomers this weekend which did surprisingly well given the deep shadow cast by The Force Awakens. Alvin and the Chipmunks the Road Chip landed in second place with &14 million, the lowest so far of the four Chipmunks movies. Each entry in the revived franchise has done less well, but failing to break $20 million may spell the end of this run for the CGI singing rodent trio.
Tina Fey and Amy Poehler looked like they had a lot of fun making Sisters, maybe more fun than audiences had watching it, but its $13 million third place wasn't too bad. Despite that moderate success, it's not likely going to be a money maker for Universal against a $30 million production budget.
In The Heart of the Sea took another hard hit this weekend, dropping from number two to number eight with an almost 70% slip from last weekend. With only $18 million domestic and another $49 million in foreign sales to date, the giant whale is a certain box office sinker against its $100 million production budget.
Two foreign flicks, Dilwale and Bajirao Mastani pulled enough attention to push into the top ten. In small release they pulled more per theater than Chipmunks or Sisters and banked enough to snag the ninth and tenth place spots.
For the full top ten break down, check out the chart below: