This photo provided by Disney/Lucasfilm shows Daisy Ridley, right, as Rey, and John Boyega as Finn, in a scene from the film, "Star Wars: The Force Awakens," directed by J.J. Abrams. The movie opens in U.S. theaters on Friday, Dec. 18, 2015. (David James/Disney/Lucasfilm via AP)

This photo provided by Disney/Lucasfilm shows Daisy Ridley, right, as Rey, and John Boyega as Finn, in a scene from the film, "Star Wars: The Force Awakens," directed by J.J. Abrams. The movie opens in U.S. theaters on Friday, Dec. 18, 2015. (David James/Disney/Lucasfilm via AP)

‘Star Wars’ blasts opening weekend record with $238 million

  • By LINDSEY BAHR
  • Sunday, December 20, 2015 9:14pm
  • News

LOS ANGELES — To say that the force is strong with this one is an understatement.

“Star Wars: The Force Awakens” brought in a galactic $238 million over the weekend, making it the biggest North American debut of all time according to studio estimates on Sunday.

The Walt Disney Co. earnings destroy the previous opening record set by Universal’s “Jurassic World,” which drew $208.8 million this summer.

Internationally, the film brought in $279 million, bringing its global gross to $517 million — second only to “Jurassic World’s” global bow of $525 million. But the dinosaurs had the added benefit of China — “Star Wars” won’t open there until Jan. 9.

This is just the latest in a laundry list of records set by J.J. Abrams’ film, the seventh in the franchise, which had analysts anticipating a debut anywhere from $150 million to $300 million.

The “X-factor” was quality. While “The Force Awakens” drew enormous pre-sales, the film was kept under lockdown from the press and critics until mere days before it was released to the public. Reviews turned out to be stellar (95 percent on Rotten Tomatoes), as did early audience reaction, who gave the film an A CinemaScore.

Rentrak’s Senior Media Analyst Paul Dergarabedian said that’s the key element that may push the film to the $2 billion mark by the end of its run. Many are already going back for a second helping.

“The enthusiasm has really turned into a cultural event,” said Dave Hollis, Disney’s executive vice president of theatrical distribution. “It’s unbelievable.”

“It feels historic. The marketing team has embarked on a two-plus year journey to create this event feel,” Hollis added. “It’s hard to think you could replicate this, but never say never.”

Males overwhelmingly drove the astronomical earnings, comprising 58 percent of the audience.

“Many of the bigger films of the past few years have been driven by that often marginalized female audience,” Dergarabedian said. “This proves that if you put the right film in the marketplace, the guys will show up in big numbers. You can still break records with one gender being the dominant one.”

He predicted that over time, Daisy Ridley’s protagonist may help even the gender breakdown. Hollis agreed, noting that the breakdown evened out across the weekend too. Friday audiences were 63 percent male, he said.

The film also drew mainly adults, who made up 71 percent of the audience. Teens accounted for only 9 percent, but those numbers may go up in the coming weeks as holiday vacations kick in.

IMAX, 3D and other premium large format screens further helped drive the massive earnings. Nearly half of moviegoers — 47 percent —chose to see the film on the generally pricier screens. IMAX screens alone accounted for $48 million of the global earnings.

But “Star Wars” didn’t fly alone this weekend. A few other movies attempted to provide some counterprogramming and ended up with comparatively decent results.

Almost a galaxy away, Fox’s animated “Alvin and the Chipmunks: The Road Chip” came in second with $14.4 million.

According to exit polls, 70 percent of audiences were comprised of families.

In third place, the Tina Fey and Amy Poehler comedy “Sisters” earned an estimated $13.4 million out of the gates. A whopping 79 percent of audiences were female for the R-rated comedy — a solid indicator that the counterprogramming against “Star Wars” was in fact a wise choice.

“A healthy box office needs something for everyone,” said Nick Carpou, Universal’s president of domestic distribution, who expects a solid performance for the comedy in the weeks to come.

Rounding out the top five were “The Hunger Games: Mockingjay — Part 2,” with $5.7 million and “Creed,” with $5.1 million.

This is the biggest overall weekend in box office history with combined grosses north of $300 million, putting 2015 in range of becoming the first $11 billion year in history.

“We’re on the verge of a record-breaking year,” Dergarabedian said. “I think we’re going to do it.”

Estimated ticket sales for Friday through Sunday at U.S. and Canadian theaters, according to Rentrak. Where available, the latest international numbers for Friday through Sunday are also included. Final domestic figures will be released Monday.

1. “Star Wars: The Force Awakens,” $238 million ($279 million international).

2. “Alvin and the Chipmunks: The Road Chip,” $14.4 million.

3. “Sisters,” $13.4 million ($1.8 million international).

4. “The Hunger Games: Mockingjay — Part 2,” $5.7 million ($7.8 million international).

5. “Creed,” $5.1 million.

6. “The Good Dinosaur,” $4.2 million ($9.2 million international).

7. “Krampus,” $3.8 million ($1.8 million international).

8. “In the Heart of the Sea,” $3.5 million ($3.9 million international).

9. “Diwale,” $1.9 million.

10. “Bajirao Mastani,” $1.7 million.

Estimated ticket sales for Friday through Sunday at international theaters (excluding the U.S. and Canada), according to Rentrak:

1. “Star Wars: The Force Awakens,” $279 million.

2. “Mojin: The Lost Legend,” $85 million.

3. “Surprise — Journey to the West,” $24 million.

4. “The Good Dinosaur,” $9.2 million.

5. “The Himalayas,” $8.5 million.

6. “The Hunger Games: Mockingjay — Part 2,” $7.8 million.

7. “Spectre,” $6.5 million.

8. “Bridge of Spies,” $4.5 million.

9. “In the Heart of the Sea” and “The Tiger: An Old Hunter’s Tale,” 3.9 million.

10. “Krampus” and “Sisters,” $1.8 million.

Universal and Focus are owned by NBC Universal, a unit of Comcast Corp.; Sony, Columbia, Sony Screen Gems and Sony Pictures Classics are units of Sony Corp.; Paramount is owned by Viacom Inc.; Disney, Pixar and Marvel are owned by The Walt Disney Co.; Miramax is owned by Filmyard Holdings LLC; 20th Century Fox and Fox Searchlight are owned by 21st Century Fox; Warner Bros. and New Line are units of Time Warner Inc.; MGM is owned by a group of former creditors including Highland Capital, Anchorage Advisors and Carl Icahn; Lionsgate is owned by Lions Gate Entertainment Corp.; IFC is owned by AMC Networks Inc.; Rogue is owned by Relativity Media LLC.

Follow AP Film Writer Lindsey Bahr on Twitter at: http://twitter.com/ldbahr

More in News

A bucket of recently caught sockeye salmon rests on the sand while anglers seek to fill it further at the mouth of the Kasilof River on Monday, June 26, 2023, in Kasilof, Alaska. (Jake Dye/Peninsula Clarion)
Dipnetting in Kasilof opens Tuesday

Dipnetting will be allowed at all times until Aug. 7

The Kasilof River is seen from the Kasilof River Recreation Area, July 30, 2019, in Kasilof, Alaska. (Photo by Erin Thompson/Peninsula Clarion)
Fish and Game restricts bait on Kasilof, Ninilchik Rivers

The use of bait on the rivers will begin Friday and extend to July 15 in Ninilchik, July 31 in Kasilof

A man fishes in the Kenai River on July 16, 2018, in Soldotna, Alaska. (Peninsula Clarion/file)
Slow sockeye fishing on Kenai, Russian Rivers

Northern Kenai Fishing Report for June 20

Alaska Department of Fish and Game logo. (Graphic by Jake Dye/Peninsula Clarion)
Bag limits doubled for sockeye salmon in Resurrection Bay

The increase is effective from June 21 to July 31

Jake Dye/Peninsula Clarion
Girl Scout Troop 210, which includes Caitlyn Eskelin, Emma Hindman, Kadie Newkirk and Lyberty Stockman, present their “Bucket Trees” to a panel of judges in the 34th Annual Caring for the Kenai Competition at Kenai Central High School on Thursday, April 18.
Caring for the Kenai winners receive EPA award

Winning team of the 34th annual Caring for the Kenai was selected for the President’s Environmental Youth Award

Norm Blakely speaks to the Kenai Peninsula Borough Assembly in Soldotna, Alaska, on Tuesday, June 18, 2024. (Jake Dye/Peninsula Clarion)
Assembly approves resolution guiding efforts to increase voter turnout

The Voter Turnout Working Group was established to explore options and ideas aimed at increasing voter participation

Alaska State Troopers logo.
Update: Bodies of 2 men retrieved from submerged plane in wake of reported Moose Pass crash

A pair of hikers witnessed and reported the crash around 2 p.m. on Tuesday, trooper say

Alaska Department of Transportation Commissioner Ryan Anderson speaks during a town hall meeting on the use of brine on Kenai Peninsula roads, in the Kenai Peninsula Borough Assembly Chambers in Soldotna, Alaska, on Monday, June 17, 2024. (Jake Dye/Peninsula Clarion)
Brine use reduced by 69% this winter, further changes possible

Department of Transportation holds town hall to report back on winter brine use, collect feedback

Sockeye salmon are gathered together at a test site for selective harvest setnet gear in Kenai, Alaska, on Tuesday, July 25, 2023. (Jake Dye/Peninsula Clarion)
Commercial fishing with dipnets to see 1st opening Thursday

Commercial fishing with dipnets will be allowed for their first opening on… Continue reading

Most Read