“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.
Force Awakens’ international haul was $279 million, the No. 3 opening of all time behind Jurassic World ($316 million) and the final Harry Potter film ($314 million). It came in No. 1 everywhere, save for South Korea and Vietnam.
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. It’s also a critical victory for Disney, which paid George Lucas $4 billion for Lucasfilm in order to get its hands on the Star Wars franchise.
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. Moreover, overall revenue hit an all-time high, crossing $300 million for the first time ever. Mid-December isn’t known for big opening numbers, since many consumers are distracted by pre-Christmas preparations.
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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. James Cameron’s Avatar opened to $77 million on the same weekend in 2009 on its way to becoming the top-grossing film of all time with $2.79 billion in global ticket sales, including $760.5 million domestically. And on the weekend before Christmas in 1996, Cameron’s Titanic took in a mere $28.6 million on its way to grossing $2.19 billion worldwide.
Other records broken by Force Awakens in North America include widest December release of all time (4,134 theaters), biggest Thursday-night previews ($57 million), biggest single day and biggest opening day ($120.5 million), first film to cross $100 million in a single day, fastest film to $100 million and $200 million, top theater average for a wide release ($57,568) and biggest Imax opening ($30.1 million). And Force Awakens came close to taking the record for biggest Saturday from Jurassic World ($69.2 million).
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). And Imax’s international debut was a record $17.9 million for a global debut of $48 million.
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In North America, the film skewed male (67 percent), according to Rentrak’s exit poll service, PostTrak. Force Awakens — featuring a strong female heroine — is expected to broaden out in the coming days. The majority of ticket buyers were between the ages of 18 and 24 (33 percent) and 25 and 34 (29 percent). Overall, 47 percent is under the age of 25, and 53 percent over.
Disney’s exit surveys showed a different demo breakdown, with males making up 58 percent of ticket buyers, and females, 42 percent. Those those between the ages of 26 and 34 made up the largest chunk of the audience (26 percent), followed by those between the ages of 35 and 49. Adults turned out in force (71 percent), followed by families (42 percent) and teens (9 percent).
Regular 2D screenings prevailed (53 percent); 3D screenings, 47 percent (that includes Imax runs with 12 percent).
Abrams’ sequel/reboot, set 30 years after the events of Star Wars: Episode VI — Return of the Jedi, features a strong female heroine in Rey, a young scavenger played by newcomer Daisy Ridley. Rey and a renegade stormtrooper (John Boyega) band together in challenging a rising evil that includes a new planet-killing laser cannon. The film also stars Oscar Isaac, Adam Driver, Lupita Nyong’o and Domhnall Gleeson along with original trilogy stars Harrison Ford, Mark Hamill and Carrie Fisher.
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