“Star Wars: The Force Awakens” is not a lock to break the opening-weekend box office record when it opens on Dec. 18 despite record-shattering presales, analysts and industry insiders have told TheWrap.
First-day ticket sales for director J.J. Abrams‘ sci-fi saga shattered records at both Fandango and MovieTickets.com, and IMAX theaters alone reported $6.5 million in presales.
Those are staggering figures, prompting some of the Jedi faithful to suggest an opening as high as $250 million and the biggest moviegoing weekend in history for the Disney release.
Not so fast. “The one thing we do know in terms of these berserk presales and the record is that we’re in uncharted territory,” Exhibitor Relations senior media analysts Jeff Bock told TheWrap.
Here are some reasons why “The Force Awakens” could still fall short of the opening-weekend record:
1. Presales don’t always predict opening weekend box office
The former advance-sales record holder was first “Hunger Games” movie, which debuted to $152 million in March of 2012. But it’s the second film in the series, “The Hunger Games: Catching Fire,” that set the record for a three-day winter opening in November 2013 with $158 million.
2. December is a weaker launch pad than summer
There’s a good reason why blockbusters tend to be slotted in the summer months, when school is out and adults are often on vacation. The biggest all-time opening-weekend champs are summer hits like this year’s “Jurassic World” ($208.8 million) and 2012’s “The Avengers” ($207.4 million).
The biggest December opener is 2012’s “The Hobbit: An Unexpected Incredible Journey,” which debuted to $86.4 million, followed by 2009’s “Avatar” with $77 million.
“Those are definitely within reach,” Bock said. “But catching ‘Jurassic World’ or ‘The Avengers’ won’t be easy because ‘Star Wars’ is going to face some real competition.”
3. There’s stiffer competition in December
While “Jurassic World” and “The Avengers” had their opening weekends to themselves, “The Force Awakens” debuts against two wide releases.
Universal is debuting the R-rated Amy Poehler-Tina Fey comedy “Sisters” on the same day that “Star Wars” rolls out, and Fox is opening the latest installment in its kids franchise, “Alvin and the Chipmunks: Road Chip.” Neither will challenge the PG-13 “Star Wars” for No. 1, but both have significant built-in audiences.
“Families with younger kids may decide to go to the ‘Chipmunks’ movie, and Fey and Poehler in an R-rated comedy is bound to be funny,” Bock said. “Say they both do $12 million — that’s $25 million that won’t go tot ‘Star Wars,'” Bock said.
But the seventh installment in the “Star Wars” franchise also has a lot going for it, including a 2-hour, 16-minute running time and the prospect of round-the-clock screenings in several theaters to accommodate moviegoer demand.
It’s a good bet that “The Force Awakens” will break the mark for widest rollout ever, currently held by “The Twilight Saga” which debuted in 4,468 theaters in June of 2010.
“This is such an event that people don’t want to be left out,” BoxOffice.com senior analyst Phil Contrino said. “As for the impact of the holidays, I think that if this movie delivers, and trailers suggest it will, than the diehards will come back that same weekend and that will offset it.”