Star Wars: The Force Awakens registered on distributors’ tracking reports today, four weeks before the film opens. On the low end, some are projecting $185 million, at the high end they’re looking at $210M, and Disney insiders think an opening close to $170M is possible. But like Jurassic World, tracking numbers for Star Wars are off the charts, and as we saw with the dinosaur film, the sampling size for $100M-plus openers is small, making projections a tricky process.
“It looks like Avengers did,” said one rival distribution chief, “and it’s the best that tracking can offer.” Force Awakens is strong across all men and women under/over 25 with males a tad higher. Overall first choice is 21%, total awareness is 89%, definite awareness is 64% and unaided awareness –that part of B.O. polling that doesn’t lead respondents toward naming a specific film — is a very strong 25%.
When we spoke with exhibitors and a group of distributors toward the end of the summer, their projection — which some are sticking to — was $300M. By December 18 when Force Awakens opens, the film is projected to rake in $100M in advance ticket sales alone, though there will be ample room for walk-up business at the theater. Exhibs will make sure of that.
Disney has earnestly tried to control B.O. projections for a franchise that they scooped up for $4B; a film that they’re recharging 10 years after the debut of the last film in the series, Star Wars: The Revenge Of The Sith. Some distribution chiefs have questioned that with holiday shopping, travel, and weather stacked against Force Awakens, why would you open it in a finite period where kids are off from school versus the summer, a B.O. season that Star Wars literally gave birth to? Don’t forget, Disney opened Tron Legacy, the $170M reboot of the 1982 film, during this frame to ho-hum results of $44M. This was after a year-plus of promotions, billboards and Comic-Con appearances, and the figure paled to the $77M racked up by Avatar and I Am Legend.
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So, why even choose this December date again for Force Awakens? (The month’s record opening is capped by 2012’s The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey which made $84.6M.) It’s all about that holiday family-going multiple which can reach 8 times a film’s opening. Avatar alone hit 10x its opening, and Tron cumed 3.9x its opening with a final domestic B.O. of $172M.
In regards to Force Awakens grabbing all screens away from other films, one rival distrib chief exclaimed yesterday, “Star Wars is not going to be on every screen! Exhibitors know that they can’t survive on Disney alone, and other pictures will survive.” Essentially, if exhibs give up all their screens at the multiplex to Disney, they’ll be putting themselves in an awful negotiating position with other major studios down the road.
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