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Weekend Box Office: Star Wars: The Force Awakens Breaks (Nearly) All the Records

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By Chris Kavan - 12/20/15 at 07:44 PM CT

The hype and the hope have been building for months and the question remained - how would Disney's take on the Star Wars legacy stack up? If you go by sheer numbers, the answer is: "The Force will be with you... always." With a record-breaking weekend, amazing critical and audience response and packed theaters worldwide, I would say this franchise is in very good hands for years to come. Against the overwhelming magnitude of such a film, it turns out some chipmunks and pair of sisters actually managed to hold their ground relatively well but the weekend belonged to one film - and what a weekend it was.


I know this has been my most anticipated movie in a long, long time and I, for one, was not disappointed. Star Wars: The Force Awakens, after what has to be considered one of the most successful marketing campaigns ever presented, opened to an astounding $238 million over the weekend. Once final numbers come in on Monday, that total could very easily rise to the low-to-mid $240 million range. How many records did the film break? Let's break it down:

Biggest Thursday opening of all time at $57 million. (Previous record Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows - Part 2 $43.5 million)

Largest Friday, Largest Single-Day Opening of all time: $120.5 million (includes Thursday grosses). Previous record Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows - Part 2 $91 million.

Biggest Domestic opened weekend $238 million (estimated). Previous record Jurassic World $208.8 million.

Best Per-Theater Average for a Wide Opening: $57,571-per-theater (estimate). Previous record Jurassic World - $48,855-per-theater average.

Biggest December Opening Weekend (crushing The Hobbit An Unexpected Journey at $84.62 million).

Best Opening Weekend for the Top 12 Films: $294.5 million. (Previous Record $266 million set June 12-14 2015).

Best December Opening Weekend: Previous Record $259.9 million set Dec. 25-27, 2009.

Fasted Film to $100 million

Domestic and Foreign IMAX Records at $30.1 million and $48 million both topping the previous record set by Jurassic World ($20.9 million and $44.1 million).

It also opened on the most number of screens of any December film at 4,134 screens, though it was not the most screens of all time. The records it fell short of includes the largest Saturday and Sunday grosses of all time (it currently sits and 3rd and 4th respectively - the Sunday number could change, however). It also fell just shy of Jurassic World's $316.1 million foreign opening and $524.9 million global opening. Once again, both of those records could still be topped once final numbers are reported on Monday, as it currently is just $7.9 million off the global opening. It set records in nearly all the territories it opened in, including the UK, Australia, Russia, Germany, Sweden, Norway and many more. It has not opened yet in China - a market where Star Wars remains a bit of a mystery, thus its numbers might not be as high at the $99 million Jurassic World opening. Better yet, audiences seemed to love the film, giving it an "A" Cinemascore and critics weren't far behind. The film is going to have very strong legs - strong enough to give is the highest domestic total of all time ($760.5 million held by Avatar) - it's going to be close, but it could top it. However, the $2.78 billion worldwide total is probably still going to be out of its (considerable) reach, but we'll see how close it gets. It will face plenty of competition in the next few weeks, as there are a lot of films (including big hitter like Joy, Concussion, The Big Short, The Revenant and The Hateful Eight) to contend with. Thus far it is already the seventh-largest film of the year (between The Hunger Games: Mockingjay part 2 at $254 million and The Martian at $223m) and should claim the record for "fasted to $300 million" sometime next week. All told, Star Wars is back in a big way - and helps get the bad taste of the prequels out of the system. Now that's a Christmas gift that really does keep on giving.


The final tally for Star Wars: The Force Awakens is $247.9 Million. In addition to adding to its already impressive weekend opening, it also now holds the record for Largest Sunday ($60.5 million, topping the $57.2 million of Jurassic World) and the Largest Worldwide Opening Weekend at $529 million topping the $524.9 million of Jurassic World. It also increased its Per-Theater-Average Record to $59,982 and the Best Opening Weekend for the Top 12 Film to $305.5 million.


Coming in miles and miles behind The Force Awakens, Alvin and the Chimpmunks: The Road Chip opened to $14.4 million. That opening continues the downward trend of the series, as it came in about 38% behind Chipwrecked (which in turn came in 52% behind The Squeakquel). Granted, it did earn an "A-" Cinemascore, meaning all the crying parents and children who couldn't get tickets to Star Wars liked what they saw. That is a better outcome than Chipwrecked, so we'll see if this road trip has some legs to it over the holiday frame when school it out and help drive up the numbers to a decent outcome.


The latest team up between the dynamic duo of Tina Fey and Amy Poehler opened to $13.4 million. Sisters couldn't match the opening of Baby Mama ($17.4 million) but better than This is 40 ($11.57 million also against a huge film - The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey). The audience was a whopping 79% female and earned a so-so "B" Cinemascore. If the film plays like a standard December release, it will probably wind up with about $50 million. Not bad for a $30-million, R-rated comedy - and surely its foreign grosses will help it out as well.


Katniss and her group of friends crossed another milestone as Mockingjay - Part 2 brought in $5.65 million (down 50.5%) and crossed the $250 million mark with a new $254.4 million total. The Force Awakens should hit that mark within a day or two, but it is only the sixth film of the year to hit that mark. It also stands at $595.5 million worldwide. It's running last place on both the domestic and global front - but if that's the low water mark for the series, it still looks mighty impressive from where I'm standing. Expect this to continue chugging along for a few more weeks, maybe even topping $275 million - but most likely having to settle for closer to $265 million.


Clearly winning the adult drama battle over Ron Howard's In the Heart of the Sea, Creed held its ground, dipping just under 50% for a $5.08 million weekend and a new $87.9 million total. While early on it seemed $100 million was in its sights, the fact it lost over 1000 screens and will lose many more next week will probably KO its chances of hitting that mark. Still, for a $35 million picture, it's a fine achievement and, much like Star Wars, shows there is plenty of life left in familiar franchises when things are handled correctly.

Outside the top five: In the Heart of the Sea took a whupping, dropping from 2nd to 8th place (down 68.7%) and only earning $3.46 million for a new $18.6 million total (pretty much the same as Rush). This one is going to exit quickly and will be another disappointment for the studio and director.

In limited release, the Holocaust drama Son of Saul opened in three theaters with $38,891 for a decent $12,964-per-theater average. This will likely expand some, but I don't consider this going as wide as Spotlight or even The Danish Girl.

Next week the Christmas rush is on as Point Break, Joy, Concussion, Daddy's Home and the expansion of The Big Short all hit theaters (as well as limited releases for The Hateful Eight and The Revenant). The big question may not be how well the new movies perform but how well Star Wars: The Force Awakens holds up.


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