erik lundegaard

Tuesday December 29, 2015

Could 'Star Wars VII' Be the First $1 Billion Domestic Movie?

Star Wars: The Force Awakens: Rey

How high will it go?

Let's break it down. 

“Star Wars: The Force Awakens” (also known as “Star Wars VII,” or “SW: TFA” or just “TFA”) shattered the opening weekend box office record by grossing $247.9 million December 18-20. The previous record, set earlier this year by “Jurassic World,” was $208 million, which was just a hair over the mark “The Avengers” set in 2012. Lost in the numbers is the fact that “Star Wars” did this the weekend before Christmas, when box office is generally as dry as Tatooine. Everyone's just too busy getting ready for Christmas to go see a movie. Put it this way: The previous record for any December weekend was the first “Hobbit” movie, which grossed $84 mil in 2012. So quite a leap. A leap into hyper space, you might say.

Which is why, after “SW7” shattered the record, it began to widen its lead. It was Secretariat at Belmont Stakes, and “Jurassic World” was Sham:

  • 3-Day lead: $39.1 million
  • 4-Day lead: $54 million
  • 5-Day lead: $67 million
  • 6-Day lead: $85 million
  • 7-Day lead: $94 million 

Just a few years ago, the 10-day record belonged to “The Dark Knight” at $313 mil until “The Avengers” broke it in 2012 with $373 mil. That record was then broken by “Jurassic World,” which grossed $402 in 10 days this summer. “Star Wars VII” is currently at $540 million. Its lead is $138 million.  

So at this point it seems assured of breaking the all-time domestic record of $760 million set by “Avatar” in 2009. But the bigger question is really where it stops. Could it break the $1 billion domestic mark?

It could—but it won't be easy. A look at the recent 10-day record holders indicates that most of these films earned about 60% of their total gross after 10 days. For “Jurassic World” it was 61.8%, “The Avengers” 59.8%, “The Dark Knight” 58.8%. If “Star Wars VII” holds to this pattern—if its 10-day total represents 60% of its final domestic gross—it will eventually gross $900 million.

To get to $1 billion domestic, that 10-day total will have to go down to 54% of its total gross. This is actually more difficult than it sounds. We ride movies hard out of the gates now, and they fade quickly. Of the 33 other films that grossed more than $200 million after 10 days, only one, “Avatar” (another December release), came in under this mark:

Avatar $212,711,184 28.4% 3,456 $749,766,139 2009
Toy Story 3 $226,889,351 54.7% 4,028 $415,004,880 2010
Spider-Man $223,040,031 55.2% 3,615 $403,706,375 2002
The Dark Knight $313,781,677 58.8% 4,366 $533,345,358 2008
Marvel's The Avengers $373,071,647 59.8% 4,349 $623,357,910 2012

(For the record: 11 of the 33 were in the 60-65% range, nine were in the 65-70% range, and eight (bad sequels like “Spider-Man 3”; franchises with a rabid fanbase but no general appeal, such as “Twilight”) were over 70%.)

But my sense is that “Star Wars VII” could transcend all of this. People are going to see it again and again. Families are going. Single dudes are going. Girls are going.

Where will it stop? We'll have a better idea on Sunday. But if I could get long odds on the $1 billion mark, I'd put money down. People love this franchise. They love it even when it sucks. And this one doesn't suck. 

Posted at 07:51 AM on Tuesday December 29, 2015 in category Movies - Box Office  
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Twitter: @ErikLundegaard