LOS ANGELES, Nov 21, (Agencies): Riding galaxy-sized expectations, the new “Star Wars” movie is already setting records for pre-opening ticket sales, with still a month to go. But does that mean the movie’s destined to be the biggest of all time?
Though several signs point in that direction, the outcome isn’t guaranteed.
The movie is on track to have the biggest December opening ever, topping “The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey,” which took in $85 million in the US and Canada on its opening weekend in Dec 2012.
Ticket seller Fandango says advance ticket sales for “Star Wars: Episode VII — The Force Awakens” has already topped every other movie, though it didn’t provide figures. Imax says it has sold $18 million domestically, double the previous record. Imax receipts account for a third of pre-release sales for this movie, putting the domestic total at more than $50 million.
Whether it bests the biggest grosser of all time — “Avatar”, with $2.8 billion worldwide — depends on word of mouth and whether fans love it enough to watch it multiple times through the new year.
“Star Wars” will have the advantage of having weak competition for months. Marvel’s “Deadpool” doesn’t come out until mid-February, while Warner Bros’ “Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice” isn’t out until late March.
“I think it’s going to own January,” said Erik Davis, managing editor of Fandango, one of the nation’s largest online ticket retailers. “I know one guy who has nine tickets to see it in the first week alone. That’s what we’re talking about.”
A single ticket in big cities can cost $25 or more after paying for extras like Imax and 3-D.
Social media activity is also off the charts, according to entertainment news website Moviepilot Inc.
Exactly a month from release, “The Force Awakens” had 405 million trailer and teaser views on Facebook and YouTube. That’s 87 percent more than this summer’s “Jurassic World,” which opened domestically with a record $208.8 million in ticket sales and owns the all-time No. 3 spot with $1.7 billion worldwide. No. 2 is “Titanic,” at $2.1 billion.
What’s more, the 178,000 weekly searches for the movie on Google is more than three times as high as “Jurassic World,” which had 51,800 weekly searches a month from release, according to Moviepilot.
“People are searching and craving and demanding content,” Moviepilot CEO Tobi Bauckhage said. “That’s a very strong signal”.
To be sure, December releases tend to be smaller than in the summer, so coming out on top may take a marathon rather than a sprint.
As for the all-time high, one thing “Avatar” had going for it: It rode a wave of consumer interest in 3-D, which costs a few dollars more than regular tickets. That frenzy has largely cooled off. Traditionalists with a nostalgia for the originals might prefer 2-D screenings, especially with director J.J. Abrams’ use of more realistic-looking special effects like puppetry.
The Walt Disney Co, which owns “Star Wars” maker Lucasfilm, declined to comment.
Advance sales don’t always equate to record grosses. The first installment of “The Hunger Games” was the leader in advance sales, but topped out at a worldwide gross of $693 million, not even in the all-time Top 10.
What “The Force Awakens” benefits from, however, is interest that now spans multiple generations. The movie also has a much bigger Chinese box office to tap. “Avatar” pulled down a monstrous $204 million in China through 2010, but the theatrical market there is now at least three times as big.
The big unknown is that no one’s actually seen the movie yet.
It could make the difference between the so-so reaction to the “Star Wars” prequels in Episodes 1 to 3 — with heavily parodied characters like Jar Jar Binks and video-game-like action scenes — and the satisfying revival that fans are hoping for.
“The brand name alone and the excitement for the franchise will get huge numbers in the door,” Rentrak senior media analyst Paul Dergarabedian said. “But for very long-term prospects, you have to have a movie that delivers.”
LOS ANGELES: “The Hunger Games: Mockingjay — Part 2” is heading for an impressive opening weekend of $110 million — down 9 percent from the “Mockingjay — Part 1”, according to early Friday estimates.
Should the forecast hold, the fourth and final film in Lionsgate’s lucrative Hunger Games franchise will finish with one of the top 25 opening weekends of all time. But it will also be the lowest opening weekend of the four films.
The three previous “Hunger Games” films have set a high bar with $2.3 billion in worldwide grosses. “Mockingjay — Part 1” opened to $121.9 million in the US below the first film’s $152.5 million launch and the second picture’s $158.1 million kickoff.
“Mockingjay 2” will bring in about $48 million on Friday, including $16 million in Thursday night previews. “Catching Fire” brought in $25.2 million from Thursday night screenings compared to $17 million for “Mockingjay — Part 1.” The first “Hunger Games” reeled in $19.7 million from midnight shows in March 2012.
The early US grosses lifted “Hunger Games: Mockingjay — Part 2” to $43 million worldwide. It is in first place in 66 of 68 markets with 19 more territories, including China and Mexico, opening Friday. This is the largest global launch of 2015 and Lionsgate’s biggest release to date.
First day numbers out of Germany tally $3.3 million, up a massive 30 percent from “Mockingjay — Part 1,” and UK grosses hit $3 million. Germany hosted the first of half a dozen premieres.
Recent tracking suggested that “Hunger Games: Mockingjay — Part 2” would launch to $120 million to $125 million at 4,175 North American locations. Jennifer Lawrence, Josh Hutcherson, Liam Hemsworth, Elizabeth Banks, Woody Harrelson and Julianne Moore all return for the fateful finale, directed by Francis Lawrence.
“Mockingjay — Part 2” will likely be the year’s fifth-biggest domestic opening, behind “Jurassic World” ($208.8 million), “Avengers: Age of Ultron” ($191.3 million), “Furious 7” ($147.2 million) and “Minions” ($115.7 million).