Star Wars: The Force Awakens took in an estimated $238 million domestically in its opening weekend. It’s the biggest opening weekend in history, besting Jurassic World, which set a new opening-weekend record with $208.8 million, earlier this year.
More remarkably, The Force Awakens set a record on its first day of release. On Friday, 18 December, the movie took in an estimated $120.5 million domestically. That’s the biggest opening day in history, making The Force Awakens the first movie in history to take in $100 million in a single day.
Although anecdotal, I can report that the local IMAX 3-D showings where I live were sold out on a Sunday morning, when I thought I might be able to avoid a mobbed theater. Not only were they sold out, but the first three showings were already sold out, including the 9:30 AM showing. I’ve never seen this before.
IMAX screenings, which carry a higher ticket price, was another area where the movie broke records. The film took in $30.1 million in IMAX tickets this weekend, demolishing the previous record of $20.9 million, held by Jurassic World.
The movie’s success is especially notable because it was a December release. Traditionally, movies were released in November and December to capitalize on holiday movie-going — as well as to get artistic movies out in a given calendar year for Oscar consideration. The November-December period also offers a way of avoiding the September-October and January-February “dead zones,” when Hollywood releases movies it expect to flop and even praised movies routinely get punished at the box office. But the end-of-the-year period, today, is decidedly secondary to the summer blockbuster season. For example, December has never had a $100-million opening weekend before. The closest, before The Force Awakens, was The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey, which took in $84.6 million domestically in its opening weekend. The Force Awakens obliterated that weekend record in its first day of release. The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey also had the highest December opening day… with $37.1 million domestically. While these are great numbers, they’re far less than summer blockbusters. The Force Awakens is bucking this trend, and this may just be the most remarkable aspect of its box-office success.
Current estimates do have The Force Awakens falling short of Jurassic World‘s Saturday and Sunday totals, as well as Jurassic World‘s international take by its domestic opening weekend. To date, The Force Awakens has grossed an estimated $517 worldwide, in contrast to Jurassic World‘s $524.9-million worldwide opening weekend. In part, that’s due to The Force Awakens not having opened in China yet. With Christmas falling on this Friday, The Force Awakens is likely to perform well in its second weekend — as well as during this week, when many have days off from work. Anecdotally, I’m seeing many reports of multiple viewings, and the movie’s reviews have been very good — both of which bode well for the movie, despite how front-loaded overall box-office totals have become.
The big question now is whether The Force Awakens can dethrone Avatar‘s $760.5-million domestic total to become the highest-grossing movie of all time in the U.S., or Avatar‘s total worldwide take of $2.788 billion. If The Force Awakens winds up grossing a total that’s three times its opening weekend, it would wind up with $714 million domestically and $1.553 billion worldwide, putting it in second place domestically and fourth place worldwide.