8TH & 9TH UPDATE, WRITETHRU, MONDAY 12:30 PM PT: With official numbers now in, Star Wars: The Force Awakens has flown above estimates to post the biggest global debut in history at $529M, besting Jurassic World‘s $524.9M from this summer. SWTFA achieved the milestone with a record $248M domestic bow and off a $281M international start which is the 3rd biggest in history. The overall debut of the galactic smash has pushed The Walt Disney Studios to its highest year on record, today crossing $5B for the first time ever.
Anticipation was sky high for the return to the phenom Star Wars franchise and the numbers did not disappoint this weekend. Pre-sales records were broken in myriad offshore territories well before the bow and stellar reviews and word of mouth helped propel walk-up business for the non-fan base during this first session. In several key markets this was the top debut weekend ever including the UK, Australia, Russia, and Germany. IMAX records were also smashed domestically, internationally and globally.
How Disney Broke The Box Office Mold With 'Star Wars: The Force Awakens'
The current best ex-U.S. plays are the UK ($50.6M), Germany ($27.5M), France ($22.5M), Australia ($19.6M) and Japan ($13.4M). The coming Christmas and New Year holidays will see kids out of school and parents out of offices while the southern hemisphere is also on summer vacation to boost daily business and repeat viewings.
For comparison’s sake internationally, the two films which remain on top for offshore openings, Jurassic World and the final Harry Potter, had multiples of 3.2 and 3, respectively. Those films released in summer (and JW had China to begin with). Expectation is that Star Wars will have Jedi-like legs going forward — as one analyst pointed out before release, “winter blockbusters have low drops and summer blockbusters explode.” During the weekend, SWTFA had already snatched the wreath of biggest December offshore opening from Avatar‘s $164.5M in 2009. Avatar went on to take 12 times that overseas.
Next up for Rey, Finn, Poe, Han, Leia, BB-8 and crew are Greece and India on December 24. And then there’s China on January 9 where Disney has pulled out the stops to raise awareness for the franchise and where the Force should be with them.
7TH UPDATE, MONDAY 7:30 AM PT: Disney CEO Bob Iger proclaimed this morning that Star Wars: The Force Awakens is “Bigger than big.” Something of an understatement, Iger made the comment in an interview on Bloomberg GO with Stephanie Ruhle and David Westin, during which he said the final global number for opening weekend “will be in the neighborhood of $528M.” That would make it the No. 1 worldwide bow of all time, besting the $524.9M that Jurassic World posted this summer. The final confirmed figures will come in later today, but Iger put domestic in the “$247M range.” However, industry estimates this morning are running from $248.5M-$250.3M which would lift the global cume even higher. Sunday’s international projection was $279M which Iger said would grow in the actuals. “It’s bigger than we thought it would be yesterday.” He also noted that China has yet to open. As we’ve noted, that’s significant because China was worth nearly $100M of JW‘s take in June. And, Disney has been pulling out the stops to prime the Middle Kingdom for the return of the Jedis in January.
5TH & 6TH UPDATE, SUNDAY AM PT, WRITETHRU: Beginning offshore rollout on Wednesday, Star Wars: The Force Awakens went into light speed on over 30,000 screens this weekend for a $279M international debut. Along with Disney’s record-smashing domestic opening, the worldwide weekend tallied an estimated $517M. That’s the second time in history a movie has opened to over $500M at the global box office and is the No. 2 best score ever, behind this summer’s Jurassic World. Disney is calling the domestic weekend at $238M, but we have heard it’s likely to come in higher than that. When all is tabulated in the actuals tomorrow, it is conceivable SWTFA steps ahead of the dinosaurs’ $525M to land the top global bow ever.
The $279M offshore start set a new December record for an international opening, outpacing Avatar’s $164.5M in 2009. It puts SWTFA in 3rd place on the international charts for biggest ever opening weekend, falling in line behind Jurassic World ($316.1M) and Harry Potter And The Deathly Hallows – Part 2 ($314M). It’s important to note that both of those films were summer releases, and particularly notable that JW had about $96M from China in its initial frame. Star Wars goes to China — where Disney has been strategically building awareness — on January 9.
Among other milestones, IMAX set a new benchmark with $48M globally and collected record-breaking receipts in the UK, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Russia and Australia.
The numbers on SWTFA are staggering and there is much play to come over the next several weeks and around the world. Already, records are plentiful including the top opening weekend ever in such key territories as the UK ($48.9M), Germany ($27.3M), Australia ($22.7M), and Russia ($12.3M), along with several other markets in Scandinavia and Eastern Europe.
Other notable early cumes are France with $22.7M (No. 2 industry opening weekend of all time) and Japan with $13.5M (biggest opening of 2015). In top December starts ever are: Italy ($9.2M), Mexico ($11.3M) and Brazil ($8.3M), along with such markets as Switzerland, the Netherlands, Hong Kong, Malaysia and Argentina.
Responding to the massive box office for SWTFA, Disney Studios Chairman Alan Horn took a moment today to thank folks for respecting plot points this weekend. “To all of the fans around the world who not only came out in Force to make this such an exciting and astronomical debut, but who treated this film as their own and helped preserve the experience for their fellow fans by not spoiling it — thank you, we do.”
4TH UPDATE, SATURDAY AM PT: After adding Spain and Japan on Friday, Star Wars: The Force Awakens now has an international cume estimated at $129.5M. Coupled with domestic, that brings the crew of the Millennium Falcon to a massive $250M worldwide in just the first three days of play. The Friday was worth $56.8M offshore — a notch down from Jurassic World‘s first Friday of $60M this summer. But, the two films are now neck-and-neck at the same point in their runs with JW having stomped on $130M overseas through its first Friday. And that movie had China, going on to gross just over $316M for the debut frame. Initial estimates on the international debut weekend for the Resistance and the First Order ranged anywhere from $250M-$315M ahead of the release. Some industry sources are now suggesting upwards of $320M.
The top five ex-U.S. plays thus far are the UK ($24.7M), Germany ($12.7M), France ($11.1M), Australia ($10.4M) and Mexico ($5.7M). Japan grossed $3M on Friday and Spain picked up $3.5M. In Japan, the shows didn’t begin until 6:30PM local, but they beat the previous Friday record-setter, Pirates Of The Caribbean 3, which started its run at 9AM. China won’t feel The Force until January 9 (the other two markets still to open are Greece and India on December 24).
The movie has opened No. 1 everywhere, except Korea where it is running just behind local title The Himalayas. That pic bowed Wednesday whereas SWTFA debuted Thursday. The films on Saturday were very close in terms of market share with Himalayas at 36.13% and SW at 34.87%.
Along with the records below, we can now add Hungary and Iceland to the list of territories that saw their biggest single day of all time with BB-8 and pals; and Poland and Hungary as terrs that gave SWTFA the biggest ever opening day. Also, Disney can now claim its best opening ever in Serbia, as well as the markets cited yesterday below. Spain, Russia and Vietnam are further among the territories that had their biggest December openings ever.
3RD UPDATE, FRIDAY 8:45 AM PT, refresh for latest…: Star Wars: The Force Awakens has opened No. 1 in 44 overseas territories combined on Wednesday and Thursday. After an initial bow on Wednesday of $14.1M, the cume with Thursday included is now $72.7M. That brings the global total near $130M with Thursday domestic previews estimated at $57M.
Going on the $14.1M estimate in 12 markets from Wednesday, Star Wars added $58.6M on Thursday with an additional 32 markets in the mix. Of those, the UK was massive with an updated $14.4M on Day 1. Records continue to be hit by an asteroid field. They now include the biggest single day of all time in the UK/Ireland, Germany, Norway and Sweden. Plus, the best first day ever in the UK/Ireland, Germany, Australia, Brazil, New Zealand, Belgium, Finland, Netherlands, Norway, Sweden, French-speaking Switzerland, Austria, Ukraine, Slovakia, Croatia, Iceland, Serbia, Chile, and Peru. (Wow, that kind of felt like the Kessel run.)
Again looking to Jurassic World as a comp, its 2nd day (a Thursday in June), picked up $41.6M. That was in 45 markets including China. Star Wars does not hit the Middle Kingdom until January 9. JW’s cume by the end of its Thursday internationally was $65.6M including previews.
As for other records beaten by Han, Rey, Finn, Poe, BB-8 and — OK — Kylo Ren, here we go: This is the biggest Disney opening of all time in France, Denmark, South Africa, Czech Republic, and Turkey; and the biggest December opening day in France, Italy, Mexico, Argentina, Hong Kong, Malaysia, and Singapore. Those last markets will be interesting to watch since they’re not as familiar with the franchise and some have predicted underperformance there. At the same time, we’re hearing increased predictions overall for the opening weekend globally.
Imax, for its large format part, set records in the UK/Ireland, Australia, Germany, Brazil, Mexico, Austria, Turkey, Portugal, Qatar, UAE, Hong Kong, Thailand, Singapore, New Zealand, Chile, Costa Rica, and Trinidad.
PREVIOUS, FRIDAY 4:30 AM PT: After taking $14.1M on its opening day in 12 markets on Wednesday, The Force Awakens went into light speed in the UK on Thursday with an estimated £9.6M — that’s $14.3M in one day and one market alone. This beats all previous comers to post the biggest opening day of all time in Britain, and the biggest single day in local industry history. Midnight showings were worth £2.4M ($3.6M), blasting all records. Putting this in some perspective, Spectre recently bowed to $6.4M in Monday previews, after starting showings at 8:15 PM local. Its first full day in late October was a Tuesday and banked $9.2M. The top-grossing movie ever in the UK, Skyfall, had a Friday opening day of £6.2M in 2012.
As recently as early this week, we were hearing predictions of a £31M ($46.3M) SWTFA debut UK frame, but local sources have upped that to a range of £34M-£43M ($50.8M-$64.2M). Spectre‘s FSS was £20.4M ($31.2M); Skyfall‘s was £20.1M ($31M in today’s dollars).
The Force Awakens broke pre-sales records a long time ago in the UK galaxy with more than 200K in the first 24 hours. Disney reports that exhibitors continually added screens to accommodate demand which resulted in a total of 2M reservations ahead of the release. There are still walk-up ducats available this weekend, the industry has been careful to report. Along with the UK, and among others, Germany, Australia, Russia, Korea, Brazil and Mexico opened Thursday. Japan and Spain debut today. We’ll be back with more numbers.
PREVIOUS, THURSDAY, 11:55 AM PT: Star Wars: The Force Awakens opened in 12 foreign markets on Wednesday, blasting its way to No. 1 in each with a collective $14.1M. While domestic B.O. analysts’ varying projections pinpoint Star Wars‘ first weekend between $180M-$220M at 4,134 theaters (the widest release ever in December), overseas analysts have a similar spread, seeing a foreign opening between $250M all the way up to Jurassic World‘s international debut record of $316.1M.
Previews in the U.S. start tonight at 7 PM, and most of the town is already betting a record of $50M, outstripping Harry Potter And The Deathly Hallows – Part 2‘s midnight preview moolah of $43.5M. At this point in time, domestic presales are projected at $100M for the JJ Abrams film. Anything over $208.8M this weekend in the U.S. and Canada beats the all-time debut record set by Jurassic World in June.
As for Wednesday, France chalked up $5.2M making it the biggest opening day ever in December, more than doubling the first day of Avengers and almost double the first day of Jurassic World. The local French industry runs its charts in terms of admissions rather than euro or dollar figures. Using that standard, The Force Awakens had the second best opening of 2015 with 619,200 tickets sold compared to No. 1 Spectre’s 850,297 — that was on a holiday Wednesday, when parents and kids both had a day off (previews were included in its admissions tally). In dollars, Rey, Finn, Poe & BB-8 took $5.2M on Wednesday with no previews. Spectre’s Wednesday take was $4.4M. On the all-time first day chart, SWTFA comes in No. 12 in terms of admissions, but it’s important to remember that this new chapter has 3D which drove 72% of box office on opening day and will continue to be a factor in dollar grosses.
Italy, meanwhile, bowed to $2M for the biggest opening single day in December, and for a Star Wars installment as well as nearly twice what The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies did on its first day last year. Sweden‘s $1.7M and Norway‘s $1.1M are the biggest industry first and single days ever for any film.
Other all-time opening day records were hit in Belgium ($800K), Finland ($600K), the Netherlands ($800K) and French-speaking Switzerland. Denmark‘s $1M reps the biggest opening day for any Disney film, as is the B.O. made in South Africa (unreported by Disney). And of course, all figures are the biggest opening day for any Star Wars franchise title ever. Disney also reports Imax is rallying with record starts in several markets.
Comps in the same suite of SWTFA‘s 12 markets from Wednesday are not apples-to-apples, but given that we’ve been looking at Jurassic World as a potential comp over the past several months, it’s worth it to note that its first day back in June was worth $21M in eight territories and excluding previews. Of that, $17.24M came from China (The Force doesn’t awaken in the Middle Kingdom until January 9) and the rest was from France, Belgium, Egypt, Indonesia, the Philippines, French-speaking Switzerland and Trinidad; some of those markets also in SWTFA’s opening suite as noted.
Major markets outside the U.S. on the previous Star Wars franchise films have rather consistently been Japan, the UK, Germany, Australia, France and Italy. So far so good in both the latter two. The UK, Germany and Oz opened today along with 29 more that include Russia, Korea, Argentina, Brazil and Mexico. Japan and Spain debut tomorrow. Those not playing Force Awakens this weekend include China, India and Greece.
Exhibitors in the U.S. saw Force Awakens for the first time yesterday and promptly embraced it. Hands down, it’s a movie that will trigger multiple viewings and rake in a ton of concession sales for theater owners.
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