“Star Wars: The Force Awakens” stormed into theaters worldwide yesterday, and the results indicate it is already exactly where Disney hoped its $4 billion franchise acquisition (not tallying actual production and marketing expenses) would be.
With many countries opening all-day play on Thursday, “Force” took in $72.7 million internationally, including all-time single day bests in 19 territories. Even more impressive is that this was a mid-December weekday, not a summer weekend day. And the total doesn’t yet include two of the biggest countries — Japan (opening today) and China (Jan. 9).
Back in the US and Canada, Thursday night “previews” totaled $57 million. This number will be rolled into the Friday figure as a single day total, but expect it to top the $91 single day record held by “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2” in July 2011. The initial take also positions “Force” to challenge last July’s “Jurassic World” for the all-time opening weekend record ($208.8 million).
Some context on the potential records: “Deadly Hallows” did its $43.5 million ($45.2 million when adjusted to current ticket prices) with shows starting at midnight, which makes it actually more impressive an achievement. The summer opening helped its cause, but the intensity of interest for the final Potter installment has to be acknowledged while acclaiming the “Force” numbers.
“Force” clearly is a huge player. What remains to be seen right away is how front-loaded the interest was — did a huge percentage of its fans go opening night? — and, more importantly, how strong the positive reaction is. If buzz sustains, will it convince more marginally interested people to go, and will the initial fans return for multiple viewings (a trend that peaked with “Titanic” as it established itself as the true biggest grossing film of the modern era, with ticket prices adjusted).
But working in “Force”‘s favor is the calendar. The heart of the Christmas holiday — the ten-day period from Dec. 25 through the Sunday after New Year’s — is still ahead. How big “Force” really is will be determined by its sustaining momentum. The film’s dominance of entertainment news is another factor working in Disney’s favor; Christmas is a time of more talk about movies among friends and family than the rest of the year, with people having more time to see movies, particularly over weekdays, than any other period.
Still, how high the film reaches is within a vast range, with today’s total, the full weekend number and the first week all part of the picture. But none of these factors is definitive. So brace yourself for evolving, and likely uncertain, indicators ahead.
Data from the first night’s results makes it tricky to predict. Initial audience surveys indicate that the audience was 71% male (and very high-end split) and 53% over 25. If that profile remains, “Force” could end up at the low end of great. But if the days ahead bring a more balanced gender split, plus a big increase in families and kids (the latter far more likely during the holidays than a school night), then much higher numbers can be anticipated. And again, at this point we have no idea about repeat business.
So the initial verdict? Very impressive, stellar initial numbers. But it’s premature to try to predict that this will break many more records ahead. Let’s wait and see.