New ‘Star Wars’ destroys records with $238M weekend
‘Star Wars’ sets N. America opening weekend record with $238M.
“Star Wars: The Force Awakens” set a record for the highest-grossing opening weekend at the US and Canadian box office with an estimated $238 million in sales, industry monitor Rentrak said Sunday. Globally, the latest “Star Wars” space epic raked in an estimated $517 million, falling in second behind “Jurassic World,” which earned $524.9 million worldwide in its first weekend, according to The Hollywood Reporter. Abrams’ movie scores the biggest North American opening of all time in addition to breaking numerous records overseas; ‘Alvin and the Chipmunks: The Road Chip’ and ‘Sisters’ escape getting crushed by the Force as overall box-office revenue hits a record high.
When the first trilogy began back in the late 70s, I was old enough to be wedded to the darker, moodier sci-fi of Solaris, Silent Running and Soylent Green, and young enough to believe that gave me the right to dismiss this latterday Buck Rogers nonsense out of hand. Since acquiring creator Lucasfilm for $4 billion in 2012, Burbank, California-based Disney has expanded the “Star Wars” merchandise lines, produced new TV shows and mapped plans for themed lands at parks in California and Florida. The trio of heroes who appeared in the first of the blockbusters in 1977 — smuggler Han Solo (Harrison Ford), Princess Leia (Carrie Fisher), leader of the rebel alliance, and her twin brother Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill) — are all back and played by the actors that “Star Wars” first made famous. The studio has as many as five more “Star Wars” films in the works. “Disney has rebooted the ‘Star Wars’ franchise,” said Robert Marich, author of “Marketing to Moviegoers.” “The reviews from critics and fans were excellent.
Now, as Episode VII rolls around, ushering in a new generation of sequels, I find myself at an age so out of whack with the film’s target demographic that what I think about it matters not a jot. You couldn’t ask for anything else.” “The Force Awakens,” which started showing in international markets on Wednesday, brought in an added $279 million overseas, lifting the worldwide total to $517 million as of Sunday, Disney said. With a film whose existence is rooted in fan culture, describing the movie is perilous; even revealing the cast list runs the risk of providing potential plot spoilers. Suffice to say that the action takes place some years after the events of Return of the Jedi, and involves scavenger Rey (Daisy Ridley) teaming up with renegade “First Order” Stormtrooper Finn (John Boyega) and globular droid BB-8.
Force Awakens doesn’t debut in the world’s second-largest moviegoing market until Jan. 9. “Our sole focus has been creating a film that delivers that one-of-a-kind Star Wars experience, and director J.J. Abrams, Lucasfilm President Kathleen Kennedy, and the Lucasfilm team have outdone themselves,” Walt Disney Studios chairman Alan Horn said in a statement. As always with this director, the film feels very physical, scenes of dog-fighting TIE fighters and a relaunched Millennium Falcon crashing through trees possessing the kind of heft so sorely lacking from George Lucas’s over-digitised prequels. Having co-written the series’s previous high-water mark, The Empire Strikes Back, Lawrence Kasdan here shares credits with Abrams and Michael Arndt on a screenplay that is steeped in the dark lineages of the originals (and does not sidestep moments of genuine tragedy), but which subtly realigns its gender dynamics with Rey’s proudly punchy, post-Hunger Games heroine. The movie’s stunning performance sets a new standard for how much the North American box office can expand when the right movie comes along, and puts even more pressure on Hollywood studios to eventize their tentpoles.
The spectre of Vader may live on in Adam Driver’s Kylo Ren, but it’s Rey in whom the film’s true force resides, likable newcomer Daisy Ridley channelling Carrie Fisher’s Leia and carrying the heavily-mantled weight of the new series with aplomb. The return of stars such as Harrison Ford and Carrie Fisher from the original 1977 “Star Wars” film along with younger actors in prominent roles has been cited by critics as a reason for the new film’s appeal across a range of moviegoers. Abrams’ movie, buoyed by nostalgia, glowing reviews and an A CinemaScore, obliterated the previous December record set by The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey, which debuted to $84.6 million in 2012. Abrams has always been a fan first, and there’s a palpable affection in his staging of scenes that recall the varied alien wildlife of Tatooine’s Mos Eisley Cantina.
Just as he proved himself a worthy successor to Spielberg with Super 8, so Abrams here breathes new life into Lucas’s epochal creations in a manner that deftly looks back to the future. At this rate, there’s no telling how high Force Awakens will ultimately fly in terms of box-office revenue, since films over the year-end holidays can see huge multiples. Watching the film in a packed auditorium with an audience almost incandescent with expectation, I found myself listening to a chorus of spontaneous gasps, cheers, laughs, whoops and even occasional cries of anguish. Overseas, Force Awakens also made history in a raft of key markets, including the biggest opening weekend in the U.K. ($48.9 million), Germany ($27.3 million), Australia ($18.9 million) and Russia ($12.3 million) And it was the second biggest in a handful of countries, including France ($22.7 million). However, Road Chip has a shot at earning close to $100 million all in domestically, since it’s the only new family offering heading into Christmas stretch.
Just as Alvin 4 has the advantage of being a family play, Sisters has the advantage of appealing to females, who made up a striking 76 percent of the opening-weekend audience. New offerings at the specialty box office included Sony Pictures Classics’ Oscar player Son of Saul, Laszlo Nemees’ harrowing holocaust drama that won the Grand Prix at the 2015 Cannes Film Festival. Adam McKay’s The Big Short, another awards player, continued to see good results in its second weekend, grossing $350,000 from eight theaters for a location average of $43,750 and cume of $1.3 million for Paramount Pictures.
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