Star Wars smashes records with $517m opening weekend

Movie smashes multiple box office records in largest opening weekend ever in US

This week Tara Brady reviews the eagerly awaited seventh episode of the Star Wars franchise in 'The Force Awakens'. It's the first film in the Star Wars sequel trilogy, announced after The Walt Disney Company's acquisition of Lucasfilm in October 2012.

 

Conventional wisdom holds that mass moviegoing is the pastime of another era. The cultural heat emanates from television now. Hollywood only churns out banal sequels and forgettable action films. Netflix is the new multiplex. Well, the movies just struck back. In an astounding display of cultural and commercial domination on a global scale, one with little precedent in the history of Hollywood, the Walt Disney Co.’s “Star Wars: The Force Awakens” earned roughly $517 million in worldwide ticket sales, smashing multiple box office records, even after accounting for inflation.

It was the largest opening weekend in North America, with $238 million in ticket sales. To put that figure into perspective, consider that “Avatar” (2009), which analysts consider to be the highest-grossing film in history, with $3.1 billion in global ticket sales, took in $85 million over its first three days in domestic release; the previous record-holder for a December opening was “The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey” (2012) with $87.5 million. “

Star Wars” has long been in a league of its own.

But “The Force Awakens” also represents the way that Hollywood hopes to battle back after years of soft domestic ticket sales, piracy and competition from video games and television. Focusing on nostalgic film properties with familiar, often cherished characters, studios are assembling Death Star-sized movies that can capture the public’s imagination in ways reminiscent of the earliest years of blockbusterdom, before the hyper-fragmentation of pop culture.

Disney is working on four more “Star Wars”-related movies and plans to restart the “Indiana Jones” series. Three more “Avatar” films are on the way from 20th Century Fox. Universal has a “Jurassic World” sequel planned for 2018 and is working to combine its classic monster properties (Dracula, the Mummy, Frankenstein) into one huge film series. Warner Bros. will release “Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice” in March; together with Legendary Pictures, Warner has a King Kong vs. Godzilla film in the works. “The studios finally seem to be remembering, after years of over-reliance on visual effects, that moviegoers like a story,” said Jeanine Basinger, a film studies professor at Wesleyan University and author of “The Star Machine.”

New York Times