Star Wars box office takings to rocket – that’s the Vader do it

Let the game commence: Battle on to see which will be the most successful film to date

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.

 

Star Wars: The Force Awakens, the most anticipated film since the last unhappy disinterment of the same franchise 16 years ago, opens in Ireland on Thursday and will be filling cinemas here and around the world in the coming days.

Box-office records are already in peril. The film has accrued an unprecedented $100 million (€91 million) in advance sales for North America alone.

With this in mind, it is easy to understand why Paddy Power has stopped taking bets on The Force Awakens becoming the most successful film ever at the worldwide box office. But the bookies are, perhaps, being too cautious.

When it comes to the all-time box-office chart, we find a sort of hyper-elite Cameron Class sitting atop a huge array of plebs. The third-biggest film of all time is this year’s Jurassic World with $1.67 billion. The second-biggest, James Cameron’s Titanic, is half a billion ahead of that. The most successful film of all time, the same director’s Avatar, is over a billion ahead of Jurassic World with a terrifying $2.78 billion.

Above average

Yes, inflation has continued since Avatar was released in 2010 but, with 3-D supplements, ticket prices for Avatar were above the average for the time.

True, anticipation is rampant. There is, however, no way expectation alone can propel The Force Awakens past Avatar. Cameron’s space opera was a strange beast. The film was sold on its technical advances as much as its story. Punters felt they were being welcomed into the future and they pressed their friends into taking the same ride.

Star Wars The Force Awakens will need to generate such strong word in its first screenings that it brings in the unconvinced and persuades the partly convinced to come back a second (or third) time.

Just let those figures soak in. You need to add on nearly two-thirds of Jurassic World’s total to bring the biggest non-Cameron release’s takings up to those of Avatar. The big unknowns here are the new markets. The rise of China has made almost anything seem possible, but Avatar was one of the films to break that territory, making $200 million of its haul there. So that doesn’t really help the argument.

Top spot

If I were at “a major high-street bookmakers”, I’d be happy offering 3/1 on The Force Awakens taking the top spot.

The question remains: what must The Force Awakens do to satisfy reasonable expectations? A recent article at E! argues that JJ Abrams’s film needs to take in $1.5 billion to avoid embarrassment.

That may be kind. The Force Awakens probably needs to make more than $1.67 billion to avoid red faces.

Why? Because that’s what Jurassic World took in.

If we knew one thing going into this year, it was that Star Wars: The Force Awakens was going to be the biggest film of the year. Jurassic World queered the pitch by taking way more than even the wisest pundit guessed. Now The Force has to follow suit.

Walt Disney, current proprietors of the Star Wars brand, need not worry too much. They will probably hit that target. Indeed, the film has every chance of getting past Titanic in the worldwide charts and is nearly certain to surpass that film’s takings in the US.

But beating Avatar still looks an appallingly tricky challenge. Mind you, the series offers lessons in determination. As Yoda said: “Do. Or do not. There is no try.”

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