“Star Wars: The Force Awakens” skyrocketed to more than $120 million in its debut at the North American box office on Friday. The biggest single-day haul in Hollywood history is a spectacular launch, and puts Disney’s much-anticipated sequel to the iconic space-fantasy series on an earnings trajectory unlike any movie before it.
The first “Star Wars” movie in more than a decade is on course to obliterate the opening weekend record of $208.8 million set by “Jurassic World” in June. It could manage the feat as early as Saturday night and conservative projections have it at $225 million for the three days, with a high-end range of more than $250 million.
Director J.J. Abrams‘ space epic surpassed the $91 million of former single-day record holder “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows – Part 2” within hours on Friday, and was boosted by the record $57 million it made at Thursday previews.
Friday’s gross was so big that “The Force Awakens” has already broken the record for a December three-day opening, set by “The Hobbit” in 2012 with $88 million.
What before Friday seemed inconceivable — that “The Force Awakens” could top the three-day weekend record in two days — seems very possible now with the film on a box-office trajectory unlike any movie before it .
“The Force Awakens” was orbiting in uncharted territory — no film had ever taken in $100 million in one day — for the studio and box office analysts. But to put its outsize achievement in perspective, if it comes in just above the Saturday ($69.6 million) and Sunday ($57.2 million) records set by “Jurassic World” this summer, “The Force Awakens” will approach $250 million for the weekend.
But should it beat those marks by a significant margin it could soar within striking distance of $266 million — the record haul for the top 12 films combined over an entire weekend set when “Jurassic World” opened.
The “A” CinemaScore grade awarded “The Force Awakens” from first-night audiences was all but a given, as millions of fans across the U.S. and Canada jammed multiplexes and lit up Twitter and Facebook with instant reviews as glowing as that of the critics. That and news reports about Friday’s electrifying debut should boost Saturday’s business.
Nostalgic fans of the original films, the first of which came out in 1977, were pretty much a lock to like the film, and they did. However, “The Force Awakens” drew an “A+” grade from women — a group Disney marketers specifically targeted — and from audience members under 18 and under 25 years of age.
The opening weekend records for international ($316.1 million) and worldwide ($524.9 million) set by the dinosaurs of “Jurassic World” are also headed for extinction. “The Force Awakens” by Friday had rolled out in nearly every market in the world except China, where it will open on Jan. 9, and taken in $72.7 million.
“The Force Awakens” stars Daisy Ridley and John Boyega in the key roles as Rey and Finn along with original “Star Wars” stars Harrison Ford as Han Solo, Mark Hamill as Luke Skywalker and Carrie Fisher as General Leia. “The Force Awakens” is set 30 years after the events of 1983’s “Star Wars: Return of the Jedi.”
The production budget on “The Force Awakens.” from Abrams’ Bad Robot and Lucasfilm, was $200 million. Bryan Burk and Kathleen Kennedy produced along with Abrams, who shared screenwriting duties with Michael Arndt and Lawrence Kasdan. John Williams composed the score.
There were two surprising developments Friday.
One was that, despite “The Force Awakens” dominating and leading them by more than $100 million on Friday, the two other wide openers were doing pretty well. Both Universal’s Tina Fey-Amy Poehler comedy “Sisters” and Fox’s “Alvin and the Chipmunks: The Road Chip” should finish the weekend in the $15 million range. “Alvin” received an “A-” CinemaScore and “Sisters” was awarded a “B.”
The second was that despite the throngs swarming multiplexes to catch “The Force Awakens,” Disney said again that there was no shortage of tickets, as theaters added extra shows and screens, and many operated on 24-hour schedules.