‘Star Wars’ On Pace to Overtake ‘Avatar’ as All-Time Box Office Champ

Record start by “The Force Awakens” means 2015 will be biggest year ever domestically with over $11 billion, Rentrak says

“Star Wars: The Force Awakens” is on pace to overtake Jim Cameron’s “Avatar” as the highest-grossing film of all time globally, just four days after it opened in the U.S. and most of the world.

That might seem premature, but what a four days they’ve been for Disney’s blockbuster, the J.J. Abrams-directed seventh entry in the iconic sci-fi film franchise launched by George Lucas in 1977. On Monday, the film’s $40 million haul put an exclamation point on an incredible opening weekend, in which it shattered records with the biggest domestic, foreign and worldwide openings. It added $37 million to break the record for a Tuesday as well, and lifted its worldwide total to more than $689 million.

The monster debut by the hugely anticipated space opera erases any doubt that the 2015 domestic box office will be the biggest in history at over $11 billion, and Rentrak revised its estimates for the year to reflect that on Tuesday.

“Of course this is an estimate only, and will be updated when final tallies are in through December 31,” Paul Dergarabedian, the box office tracker’s senior media analyst, told TheWrap on Tuesday.

It has also become clear that, barring the unforeseen, “Star Wars” will ultimately overtake the $2.78 billion global haul of “Avatar” to become the all-time champ at the box office.

“Are we looking at the first $3 billion movie ever?” wondered Dergarabedian. “If any film can do it, it’s this one.”

At its current clip, “The Force Awakens” could hit $1 billion globally this coming weekend, which would top the previous mark for fastest to that standard set in June by Universal’s “Jurassic World,” which did it in 13 days. The dinosaurs’ record for biggest second-weekend haul of $106 million is headed for extinction, too.

Weeks ahead of its domestic debut, Disney said that the second weekend for “The Force Awakens” could be in the same range as its first, owing to an increase in the number of kids out of school. But that was before it rolled up nearly $248 million on its opening weekend.

There is competition, with Mark Wahlberg-Will Ferrell comedy “Daddy’s Home,” “The Big Short” from Paramount, Sony’s NFL saga “Concussion,” the “Point Break” remake from Warner Bros. and Jennifer Lawrence‘s “Joy” all opening wide, with Quentin Tarantino‘s “Hateful Eight” and Leonardo DiCaprio‘s “The Revenant” in limited debuts. But that’s not going to stop “Star Wars,” according to Jeff Bock, Exhibitor Relations senior analyst.

“I could certainly see it landing north of $200 million this weekend,” he told TheWrap. “This is all uncharted territory, but you look at what ‘Avatar’ and ‘Titanic’ did in their second weekends and you have to think, why not?”

“Avatar,” which like “The Force Awakens” opened on Dec. 18 back in 2009, followed up its $77 million domestic opening with a $75 million second weekend, a drop of less than two percent. “Titanic,” the No. 2 film on the all-time global box office list at $2.18 billion, actually went up in its second domestic weekend to $35.4 million, after opening on Dec. 19 of 1997 with $28.6 million in its first three days.

“The Force Awakens” has several things going for it besides a ton of momentum as it looks to top “Avatar.” The biggest factor could be the growth of the overseas market — and China in particular — which could be as much as 30 percent larger. The increase in the number of premium-ticket options like IMAX and Premium Large Format theaters will help, too. Fox’s Ryan Reynolds superhero saga “Deadpool” is set for mid-February and “Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice” comes in late March, but “The Force Awakens” looks to have a largely clear field until then.

Its opening weekend marks won’t be going anywhere soon, either, Bock said.

“This was a unique situation with so many people wanting it to be better than the prequels, and it delivered, and these numbers were the result. I don’t see anything topping this, not even ‘Star Wars VIII,'” he said.

That one, the next entry in the trilogy “The Force Awakens” kicked off, arrives in May of 2017. The Gareth Edwards-directed spinoff “Rogue One: A Star Wars Story” will open in mid-December next year.

“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.