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Star Wars: The Force Awakens shatters records but can it also save Hollywood?

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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.)

4 COMMENTS

  1. With the exception of the usual suspects, the cool thing about VII that also kind of saves Hollywood is that it resurrected the experience of going to the movies. Not only because of the cheering, dressing up, and general Hollywood feel it gave to Anytown, USA, but also because it seemed like the first time in forever that audiences, studios, and the media (!) were all together in preserving the experience for the theatergoer. Oh, the Internet tried weakly with its avatars and listicles, but it failed in the face of such monumental numbers, both critical and box office. The experience — which is what Star Wars is — delivered. because we recognized that it can only really work in a darkened movie theater.

  2. :”Among the other films that are part of this bold strategy …”

    I hope you were being sarcastic, Heidi, because it’s not a bold strategy. It’s the safest and most conservative strategy possible. Stick to proven formulas and give ’em old and familiar characters. Pander to nostalgia whenever possible. Yeah, that’s taking chances!

    Before long, this Onion satire may become reality: “MPAA adds new rating to warn audiences of films not based on existing works:”

    http://www.theonion.com/article/mpaa-adds-new-rating-warn-audiences-films-not-base-51651

  3. Could it every be possible for someone like Abrams to be like -I am not going to spend almost a billion dollars on some sci fi movie, while kids are starving, and jobs are being out-sourced just because the labor is cheaper, as people obsess on how others are different and then how to be a bigot and act pretentious about being a ‘hater’., so Abrams then invests in new institutions, and places were people can regain hope that work ethic, education, and cooperation will again have ‘value’, and training, and assistance is available for everyone… -like that is an ‘impossibility, since no one know about anyone that can provide hope, yet we know all about a brands that use the word ‘hope’ in their movie scripts. Wow, I am an ‘American’.

  4. Could it every be possible for someone like Abrams to be like -I am not going to spend almost a billion dollars on some sci fi movie, while kids are starving, and jobs are being out-sourced just because the labor is cheaper, as people obsess on how others are different and then how to be a bigot and act pretentious about being a ‘hater’. So Abrams then invests in new institutions, and places were people can regain hope that work ethic, education, and cooperation will again have ‘value’, and training, and assistance is available for everyone… -like that is an ‘impossibility, since no one knows about anyone that is real that can provide hope, yet we know all about brands that use the word ‘hope’ in their movie scripts. Wow, I am an ‘American’. This movie was OK… K-Ren-dawg lives of course… Harrison Ford is like “thank God, Im out of this, no more, fini, baby!” I agree. The merchandising, the merchandising, the off-shore banking, and the USA is the number one consumer of cocaine, Oxycontin, and heroin. Imagine if the funds from Star Wars went towards addiction treatments, and just training a new work force -USE THE ‘work’ FORCE, LUKE!

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