To the surprise of few, Star Wars The Force Awakens is now the all time opening box office champ posting mind boggling numbers right from the $57 million Thursday. Some of the records:
Largest Friday, Opening Day, Single Day: $120.5 million (estimated)
Previous Record: $91 million (Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2)
• Domestic Opening Weekend: $238 million (estimate) Previous Record: $208.8 million (Jurassic World)
• Fastest to $100 Million: 1 Day Previous Record: 2 Days (Jurassic World)
It was thought that SW:TFA would not surpass Jurassic World’s worldwide opening weekend gross, but it surpasssed estimates to do that as well, taking in $524.9, not even counting China.
Of course there is nothing like Star Wars, but having a movie with a 95% Rotten Tomatoes record hasn’t hurt. In the Times, Brooks Barnes suggests that it’s also part of a studio strategy to make movies people want to see but combining massive beloved franchises:
“Star Wars” has long been in a league of its own. But “The Force Awakens” also represents the way that Hollywood hopes to battle back after years of soft domestic ticket sales, piracy and competition from video games and television. Focusing on nostalgic film properties with familiar, often cherished characters, studios are assembling Death Star-sized movies that can capture the public’s imagination in ways reminiscent of the earliest years of blockbusterdom, before the hyper-fragmentation of pop culture.
Consumers are just beginning to see this strategy — “Jurassic World,” which took in $208.8 million over its first three days in June, was an early example — but studios have been engaging in a behind-the-scenes arms race for several years. The results are just now coming to market.
Among the other films that are part of this bold strategy: more Indiana Jones movies, more Jurassic World, three more Avatar films, the Universal monsters reboot, King Kong vs Godzilla and Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice
The article suggest that even studio heads have decided that moar and moar CGI is not the only route to moviegoers hearts. The Force Awakens emphasis on building characters, and eschewing endless drone/clone armies may just be common sense, but then, that has never ruled in Hollywood.
Writing for the LA Times, Rebecca Keegan also points out that the diverse cast of Stars Wars TFA, far from being an outlier, reflects general trends at the box office:
While director J.J. Abrams’ “Star Wars: The Force Awakens” has satisfied many fans of the series by returning to the exuberant spirit of Lucas’ early films, the latest movie also creates clever, funny, courageous new characters who reflect our diverse, modern world. “Star Wars: The Force Awakens” follows on the heels of some of this year’s biggest box office hits, from the final movie in the female-led “Hunger Games” franchise to the seventh film in the ethnically diverse “Fast and Furious” series, which affirmed that audiences show up when then they see characters on-screen who look something like them.
And in case you were keeping score, TFA also passes the Bechdel test:
Two of the “Star Wars” prequels pass the test, for exchanges Natalie Portman’s politician Padmé Amidala has with some of her handmaidens. The new film passes for the brief scene with Rey and Leia as well as a long, mostly expository scene between Rey and Maz Kanata. (Though that scene with Maz is open to interpretation — it includes a mention of Luke Skywalker but is not about Luke Skywalker. Strict Bechdelists may disagree, but for me it passes, because the female characters are talking about the Force.)
Heidi MacDonald is the founder and editor in chief of The Beat. In the past, she worked for Disney, DC Comics, Fox and Publishers Weekly. She can be heard regularly on the More To Come Podcast. She likes coffee, cats and noble struggle.