Last week, after a 6 month run in US theaters, Star Wars: The Force Awakens completed its historic run at the box office. Finishing with a domestic haul of $936m, it pulled in enough money to secure its place at the top of the charts for at least a while with an approximate lead of $160m over the second place film, Avatar.
While that 936 million was enough to put it at number one domestically, the movie only reached third all-time at the world wide box office. When international theaters are included, The Force Awakens pulled in a whopping $2.066. But, that number still puts it significantly behind James Cameron’s box office mega-hits Titanic at $2.187b and Avatar off in the distance at $2.788b.
The discrepancy between The Force Awakens’ #1 spot domestically and its #3 spot worldwide can obviously be attributed to lower interest in Star Wars in some key foreign markets. Avatar, whose historic success is often attributed to the birth of the new generation of 3D films, had a great showing in foreign markets like China. Avatar’s foreign box office accounts for nearly 73% of its total haul. Titanic sees similar numbers with a foreign percentage just under 70%. The Force Awakens meanwhile got just under 55% from foreign theaters.
— Box Office Mojo (@boxofficemojo) June 6, 2016
What that means for the franchise going forward is anyone’s guess and will be the source of much speculation in the coming years. With some exceptions, sequels have a tendency to do less business than the original. This is especially clear in the Star Wars franchise itself where A New Hope and The Phantom Menace sit atop the box office mound for their respective trilogies.
With the increasing importance of the Chinese box office, could the growing familiarity with the property translate to a bigger foreign haul for the rest of the trilogy? Or will foreign audiences continue to deliver strong, but not all-time performance with domestic box office pulling more than its typical share of the weight. Conventional wisdom would tell you Episodes 8 and 9 will pull in marginally less than The Force Awakens, but with the emphasis on exposing the rest of the world to the galaxy far, far, away in order to grow the market there, only time will tell if that bears any fruit for the subsequent films
Avatar is pretty safe in its 1st place spot, but there will inevitably be speculation about Disney and Lucasfilm looking to re-release the film to possibly overtake Titanic in the second spot and perhaps push it over the $1 billion mark domestically. While that would have been an easy bet even 5-10 years ago, with the current crowded box office schedule and a new Star Wars film coming out every year, there isn’t much time in which Lucasfilm could slip a re-release in ahead of Rogue One or Episode 8. Would Disney really want to sap audiences from Doctor Strange or Thor to do a pre-release run ahead of one of the upcoming films? Will there even be a huge demand for a re-release of the first film of the trilogy when it’s been less than a year since it was in theaters and there is a new movie coming out in a few weeks?
It’s possible that they will chip away at these things over time with small limited runs, marathons, and special screenings and then maybe do a big re-release towards the end of the trilogy. But by that time, some new movie may have been the first to pass that $1b mark, making the accomplishment less desirable.
No matter what happens, for now The Force Awakens is the king of the domestic box office. And, even if it isn’t the king or queen world-wide, it still has an honored place in the royal family’s court. Considering the risk that was taken on in restarting this franchise under new leadership, what was accomplished financially was nothing short of historic. So, as the film moves into retirement we salute The Force Awakens as the conquering hero of the domestic box office. Long may you reign.