UPDATE, 4:50 PM: It’s no surprise, what with Star Wars: The Force Awakens approaching $600 million in domestic earnings. But Rentrak now confirms that the domestic film revenues have crossed the $11 billion mark, with $11.1 billion projected as the final tally by Thursday, December 31. This makes 2015 the biggest overall year for the industry in North American box office history.
PREVIOUS, DECEMBER 20 PM: At the onset of 2015, a number of film distribution chiefs were certain we’d hit the all-time $11 billion mark at the domestic box office. Their forecast was juiced by the number of event tentpoles on the calendar: Furious 7, Jurassic World, Spectre, Inside Out, the final Hunger Games, of course, Star Wars: The Force Awakens. These weren’t just your average big franchise films, rather titles that were bound to leave moviegoers with such a cathartic experience, that repeat business would be undeniable. For example, Furious 7 was actor Paul Walker’s grand finale while both JW and Force Awakens were landmark reboots that appealed to both younger and nostalgic older moviegoers.
However as fall fell apart with the collapse of adult movie titles such as Steve Jobs, Our Brand Is Crisis and The Walk, along with Spectre and The Hunger Games: Mockingjay-Part 2 filing cumes lower than their predecessors, doubt set in as to whether we’d cross $11B — literally all the way up until Thursday morning. But because of Force Awakens‘ estimated $250M all-time opening record weekend, most industry box office analysts are certain we will realize the $11B domestic box office year. In fact, if we didn’t have Force Awakens in the holiday mix, we would definitely fall short of that number.
2013 is the previous high point for U.S./Canada movie ticket sales which reached $10.9B. Currently, 2015 stubs per Rentrak are even with that year at the same point in time at $10.4B, leaving $600M left to clear in 11 days. Given the busy holiday moviegoing season, it’s not uncommon to gross that insane amount of money in such a short time. The primary activity for families over the holidays will be Force Awakens and other titles. During the final 11 days of 2013 (Dec. 21-31), the total domestic B.O. chalked up $585M (that’s an average of $53.2M a day), with 79% of that figure generated from nine titles; comprised of two major holdovers (Frozen and The Hobbit: The Desolation Of Smaug combined at $182M) plus four Christmas wide entries from the majors. This year, the projection is that another eight titles –made up of five Christmas day studio releases plus Force Awakens, Sisters and Alvin And The Chipmunks: The Road Chip — could take us past $621M. The latter three titles are bound to rep 68% of that number.
Jurassic World was the fastest to pass $500M in 17 days and $600M in 36 days, and analysts believe that Force Awakens will easily lick those records. A $500M domestic cume by year-end for Force Awakens is definitely conceivable. Consider the fact that a sizeable amount of advance ticket sales have already been purchased for Force Awakens on Christmas Day, not to mention word of mouth is on fire: 88% told Rentrak’s PostTrak that they would recommend the movie to a friend, and another 95% said they know five other people who are going to Episode VII. Also, when factoring this record holiday period, consider the amount of money people are willing spend on movie tickets: 73% told PostTrak that they spent between $13-$18+ for a Force Awakens ticket. The National Association of Theater Owners reported the average Q3 2015 ticket price at $8.25.
By the end of the year, the top 10 films, all in excess of $200M stateside, will account for a third of 2015’s total ticket sales. This past weekend, Rentrak reports an all-time high for weekend ticket sales of $305M, beating the previous record set over JW‘s June 12-14 frame of $273.8M weekend. This past weekend is up close to three fold from a week ago’s paltry results of $77.4M, and another +126% over the same pre-Christmas weekend a year ago.