It should be pretty obvious that, for the foreseeable future, the box office
will be dominated by “Star Wars: The Force Awakens” with everything else trailing behind. It’s going to sound like a record stuck in a groove playing the same bit over and over again. And you better get used to it because it’s going to be stuck up there for a long while to come.
But before I get into that, in last weekend’s box office report, I asked you what the highest grossing film ever made was, and one commenter got it right – “Gone with the Wind,” which is still making money some 76 years after it was first released in 1939. It’s total box office adjusted for inflation today is $1,685,052,200.
But I also suggested that there was possibly an “unofficial” highest grossing film ever; and I propose that film could be D.W. Griffiths’s controversial epic “The Birth of Nation.”
The actual box office for “The Birth of a Nation” is not officially known. When it was first released 100 years ago in 1915, through its last official re-lease in 1940, experts and analysts estimate that the film grossed, in real dollars back then, somewhere in the $50-$100 million range, which was an extraordinary sum of money during that time, out-grossing anything – even “Gone of the Wind.” And remember we’re talking about a time when the average movie ticket cost anywhere from a nickel to 25 cents, so just imagine how many people had to have seen “Nation” in order for it to gross $50-$100 million.
And that was just in the United States. Who knows how much the film has made worldwide since its initial release? Unfortunately, there are no figures for that, and its domestic gross was last reported in the early 1970’s. Griffith’s film is still, to this day, being screened all over the world through videos sales, special screenings and in classrooms. Who knows how much money the film has made over the last 40 years. Although the film is currently in the public domain.
The $50 -$100 million it initially made 100 years ago, adjusted for inflation in today’s dollars, would make the film, if it not the highest grossing film of all time, above “Gone with the Wind,” or, at least, in the top five.
But enough of that and let’s get to “The Force Awakens.”
As it did last week, it just continues to break records. It broke the record for the biggest single Christmas Day gross ever of $49.3 million, doubling the amount made by the previous record holder, “Sherlock Holmes” in 2009 with $24.6 million.
In total “The Force Awakens” grossed $153 million this weekend for a total, to date, of over $544 million. No film ever before has made that much money in just 8 days domestically, and it looks very likely now that it will be the first film ever reach the billion dollar mark domestically in today’s dollars. Audiences are just simply losing their minds over this film. It’s an addiction (I thought it was alright and entertaining; but not the greatest thing in my lifetime).
I believe that one of the main reasons why audiences are so excited by “Force” is because it wasn’t written and directed by George Lucas, which gave “Star Wars” fans real hope that “Force” was going to be good, and not follow in the path of those truly awful prequels which every single person on the planet hates.
Ad the overseas numbers to date of $546 million, and the film has made just over $1 billion. That means it’s the fastest film ever in cinema history to gross a billion dollars worldwide.
No surprise therefore that Disney announced last week that they’re closing off 14 acres at Disneyland and shutting down 10 attractions and eateries to make room for “Star Wars” Land to open a year from now. Might as well make money while it’s hot.
Of course there are other films that dared to go up against “The Force” this weekend, and the results were a combination of good, O.K. or just straight up bad for them.
Will Smith’s drama “Concussion” had a so-so opening of just $11 million, making it his weakest box office wide release opening ever for a film he stars in. Emphasis on “wide openings” as well as “films in which he’s the star” – as in the story revolves entirely around his character. “Six Degrees of Separation” opened on just 2 screens in 1993, so it doesn’t count. Neither do “Winter’s Tale” and “Where the Day Takes You” (both opened lower as well) because he wasn’t the star of either. In “Winter’s Tale,” he had a cameo appearance, and in “Where the Day Takes You, which was his very first feature film, released in 1992, he was part of an ensemble cast.
Of course going up against the “Force” juggernaut was a tough task, but there were other factors against it. First of all, a serous mid-level film about football and the physical toll it takes on its players wasn’t the best possible film to go against “Force;” and with Smith’s career is in a slump of late, so perhaps a more lighter comedy or adventure film might have fared better.
Also just exactly who is the audience for the film? People who hate sports and/or football aren’t going to see it; and football fans aren’t exactly thrilled to go see a film that put their favorite sport in a negative light. Also the fact, revealed a month ago, the studio caved in and made changes in the film due to pressure from the NFL, compromising the picture, could not have helped the film at all.
Faring much better was the Will Farrell/Mark Wahlberg comedy “Daddy’s Home,” which came in second, with some very solid numbers, making $38 million.
“The Big Short,” about the 2008 financial collapse, also did well, making $16 million total. With the film’s very modest $28 million budget, and a cast of A-list actors, as well as an A-list director in Adam McKay all taking huge salary cuts in exchange for back end deals, the film should do well overall.
David O. Russell’s also modestly budgeted “Joy” with Jennifer Lawrence, did pretty good.with $17 million.
The real disaster this weekend was Warner Bros’ totally unnecessary and unwanted remake of the cult action classic “Point Break.” The remake of the 1991 film was largely destroyed in advance reviews and the studio obviously knew they had a stinkeroo on their hands when, two weeks ago, they suddenly cancelled all advance media screenings for the film, with no explanation.
The reportedly $100 million film grossed a poor $10.2 million, which makes it yet another B.O. bust for Warners, the 10th one, since this summer. Fortunately for them, the film is doing well in China and other Asian countries where it opened a month ago, and has made $43 million so far. Not enough to save the film from being a bust, but enough to, at least, soften the blow. At least Warners still has “Creed” which continues to be strong with excellent word of mouth and $96.3 million so far.
As for limited openings, the 2 most anticipated new films – Alejandro Inarritu’s “The Revenant” and Quentin Tarantino’s “The Hateful 8” – had some very solid results. “The Revenant” made $471,000 on only 4 screens, for a per screen average of $117.750, the highest per screen average for any film playing now, including “Force Awakens.”
Meanwhile, “Hateful 8 ” on 100 screens (in its road show version, with a three-hour-plus running time, including overture and intermission, in 70MM Ultra Panavision glory) pulled in $4.53 million, for the second biggest per screen average of over $45,000 per screen, with several theaters reporting sold out shows. Both films are scheduled to open up wider in two weeks.
Also Spike Lee’s “Chi-Raq” seems to have topped out around $2.5 million, making just $36,700 this weekend on 20 screens. Amazon will be releasing it on home video platforms starting this week, December 29th.
1) Star Wars: The Force Awakens BV $153,522,000 Total: $544,573,329
2) Daddy’s Home Par. $38,800,000 New
3)) Joy Fox $17,500,000 New
4) Sisters Uni. $13,880,000 Total: $37,147,930
5) Alvin and the Chipmunks The Road Chip Fox $12,700,000 Total: $39,399,441
6) Concussion Sony $11,000,000 New
7) The Big Short Par. $10,520,000 Total: $16,013,455
8) Point Break WB $10,220,000 New
9) The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 2 LGF $5,300,000 – Total: $264,603,061
10) Creed WB (NL) $4,600,000 Total: $96,316,653
11) The Hateful Eight Wein. $4,536,591 New
12) The Good Dinosaur BV $3,785,000 Total: $105,350,155