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Star Wars The Force Awakens Box Office Predictions & Results

Updated on February 3, 2016
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Article originally published 5/6/2015. All updates are toward the bottom.

Star Wars The Force Awakens is one of the most anticipated films for 2015 and it will not reach theaters till December 18. All we can do is dream for now and hang on to the small treads left dangling in the trailers. The big question I have, is how much will this new installment make. The Force awakens is most definitely going to be at least the second highest grossing film of the year and will give Avengers: Age of Ultron a run for its money. First, we need to take a look at how the other six films performed in the past.

One of the hardest things to do with gaging the success of the previous six Star Wars films, is that they where released over a period of twenty-eight years. Not to mention there was sixteen years between the 1983 release of Return of the Jedi and 1999 release of The Phantom Menace and ten years since Revenge of the Sith. They two sets of trilogies where also released in two different economic conditions, the cost of a ticket has gone up and films today reach more screens than what they did back in the late 70’s and early 80’s. Inflation has greatly warped the successes of the films of the past; this can be seen easily by looking at the top ten film grosses of all time.

Star Wars: The Force Awakens Trailer

We see the highest grossing film of all time as Avatar, which grossed a staggering $760,507,111 back in 2009. Avatar was a huge success, but it’s not even close to being the most successful movie ever made and in fact its only number ten. After you take into account inflation, you get a much better idea of just how big a movie was. The most successful movie ever was Gone with the Wind. If Gone with the Wind came out today and sold the same number of tickets as it had back in 1939, it would gross a mind boggling $1.9 billion dollars. So, this same effect can be applied to Star Wars.

On May 25th, 1977, Star Wars premiered and went on to become the highest grossing film of all time. The film ended up grossing $460,998,882 by the time it wrapped up its time in theaters. With inflation, if Star Wars came out today it would have made $1.3 billion dollars. So, when you look at the success of all of the Star Wars films, the original was the most successful. The Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi come in distant second and third and only one of the modern movies came close to being a successful as the original trilogy.

Trends for all of the Star Wars films.  Adjusted Gross reflects inflation.
Trends for all of the Star Wars films. Adjusted Gross reflects inflation.

The Phantom Menace was the only film of the newest trilogy that came close to original three. Phantom Menace, adjusted for inflation, would have made about $740.6 million today. In actuality, it made $474.5 million in 1999, just barley overtaking Star Wars mark, which was at the number two spot on the all-time list at the time. The final two installments Attack of the Clones and Revenge of the Sith didn’t even come close to the success of the first four.

Now, you can’t necessarily use the adjusted for inflation grosses to try to figure out what this new film would do. You especially can’t use the adjusted amounts from the first three, because I highly doubt The Force Awakens will make $1.3 billion at least not domestically. What you can use those numbers for is at least gauge the popularity of the franchise. Obviously, Star Wars is huge (yes, huge is an understatement) and no matter what this film will do well. With the amazing work that J.J. Abrams has done in the past with resurrecting the Star Trek franchise to glory, he will do the same here with Star Wars.

The Force Awakens could explode Star Wars back into prominence, much like The Phantom Menace did in 1999. If it does match Phantom Menace in its success, then it’s possible that the film could gross over $700 million and even become the highest grossing film of all time. This scenario is possible, so I did include it in my models because the potential is there even though the conservative side of me, finds it little unlikely. These day’s compared to when the most recent three were in theaters, we view movies differently. Today, you only have to wait three months for the films to come out on On Demand or Blu-ray. Personally, I haven’t been to movie theater in two years, because I don’t have to wait that long to watch in the comfort my own home and that’s they way I prefer it and that’s they way a lot of people like it now.

(As a note, that two year mark will end tonight since I’m going to the theater to view a live broadcast of a Rifftrax presentation of The Room.)

The first thing to figure out is how much the film will open with on its first weekend. The Force Awakens will at least have the highest December opening weekend ever, which would put it over the likes of The Lord of the Rings, The Hobbit, and Avatar. Now, movies that open in December don’t open at numbers like Avengers: Age of Ultron. The highest opening ever in the month of December was The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey at $84.6 million. The films in that come out in this month tend to open solidly and then hold on strong through the doldrums of January, making a lot money. Right now, I think the range that The Force Awakens will open at will be somewhere between $88 and $102 million. This is the first Star Wars to be released in December and in fact all of them were released in May. Also, the highest opening ever was Revenge of the Sith at $108 million. The Force Awakens probably will open with more, but only time will tell if it will bunk the trends of a normal December release and I’ll have a better idea in the weeks leading up to its release.

As for the final gross, I applied several models to help. The first one I looked at was what the past Star Wars films have done. If Force Awakens does as the others have done, it could gross upwards of $756.76 million. As I mentioned before, this high of a final gross may be unlikely, but it is possible. On the low end of the spectrum, if it does as other J.J. Abrams directed films have done, it would only gross $320.52 million. Fortunately, Star Wars is a whole other animal and we only have four J.J. Abrams films to use for trends, so this number is a little soft. The other two models I looked at, take into account what other modern films like (but not limited to) Avatar or The Avengers have done in the recent past. These two models are probably the best judges for what The Force Awakens will do in today's box office climate. The first model uses trends derived from movies released in December and it gives a final gross of $504.12 million. The other model uses trends from some of the highest grossing film off all time and this trend gives an amount of $525.75 million. I think this film will end up grossing somewhere between $400 and $550 million with a slight chance being just huge, grossing over $600 million.

The big bucks will not be earned here in the domestic market. Today, over half of a films bussiness is done internationaly. Look for the newest Star Wars to be grossing over $1.5 billion and even scratching at the $2 billion mark.

As mentioned before, I’ll have a much better idea of how much the film will gross in the weeks leading up to it. This film will also cap off one of the greatest years ever for Disney, since they will have the two highest grossing films of the year.

Update 6/30/2015 New Projections

The prospects for J.J. Abrams’ Star Wars continue to rise with its release date still about five months away. The average of the predictions that I’ve seen have the film opening weekend around $167.1 million, a domestic gross around $651 million, and a worldwide gross above $1.7 billion. Some recent projections have the worldwide total being as high as $3 billion. It’s of course still quite early to get a firm grasp on what Star Wars The Force Awakens will do but it’s still fun to ponder what it will do. My original models were based on more modest but large opening of $98 million. I still think that $98 million is still a reasonable possibility for the film since it’s coming out in December and on what the recent additions to the franchise have done. The film will have January to stretch its legs and do extremely well making a hefty amount. All of my new models are based the most recent projections for the film and I feel I have enough data to make my first prediction on this film. Also, Jurassic World recently created new records from it’s opening which The Force Awakens may be destined to break.

The one thing that makes this Star Wars so hard to project is because of its December release date and the question of how many people are going to be camping out or lining up outside theaters in the beginning of winter like they had in the May releases of previous installments. Though today most of these people that would camp out normally can pre-purchase their tickets online instead.

So far this year, new releases have been bucking typical trends. With 2015 being so “odd” this could make using trends of normal December releases a poor basis for projections but I still developed a model based on those trends. My new December model give an opening weekend of $146.9 million, a domestic gross of $755.5 million, and a worldwide total of $1.9 billion. These numbers are well within the realm of possibility but the recent projections have it opening even higher.

The best indications for what the domestic and worldwide gross will eventually be is by looking at the trends by the films that are in the Top 10 All-Time grosses, because this film will most likely be among them. According to these models the film could open as high as $167.1 million and as low as $121.46 million. The domestic haul could be as high as $896.5 million and as low as $651.61 million. The worldwide total can be as high as $2.19 million and as low as $1.5 billion.

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All of the models suggest an extremely profitable theatrical run for the film even on the low end of the possibilities. With the new data the films opening weekend could be from $191.8 to $115.1 million. The domestic gross could be from $846 to $507.6 million. The worldwide total could range from $2.1 billion to $1.29 billion. My first prediction is a record shattering December opening weekend of $200 million, a domestic gross of $750 million, and worldwide total of at least $2.1 billion. I will say again, I still feel my original projections are more resonable and not mention far more plausible but why not jump on the bandwagon of insanity, because Star Wars might just have a few surprises in store for us.

Dollars in the Millions
Dollars in the Millions

UPDATE 10/26/2015

The first projections are coming out for The Force Awakens after the release of an all new trailer (see below) for the film. Based on current trends being displayed by the rabid Star Wars fan base is an opening weekend around $200 million and a domestic gross in Avatar country, which grossed $760.5 million in 2009.

These numbers are within the realm of possibility, but I will warn that they could possibly be slightly inflated, more so when it comes to the opening weekend and I went through this point in the original parts of article. Rightly so, most people appear to be using the 1999 release of Episode 1 as a model of what this film should do, because both films are the first new addition to the franchise in a long time and have the same excitement leading up to their releases. If Episode 1 came out today, it would have gone on to to gross $740 million.

My most recent projection back on June 30th, where around the recent numbers. My projection was and opening weekend around $200 million, $750 million domestic gross, and a worldwide total around $2.1 billion and since I'm in the ballpark, I'll stick with them. The film is still a month and a half away and ticket pre-sales should paint a more acurate picture of the opening weekend something in the next month.

UPDATE 12/11/2015

The first reliable projections have become available based on presales for tickets. The films domestic opening will most definatly be north of $200 million but probably no more than $230 million.

UPDATE 12/18/2015

Some projections have the film opening upwards of $250 million. These may be over inflated and tomorrow morning more accurate numbers will be available. According to early numbers, the film has already brought in $57 million, plus is doing very welike overseas.

UPDATE 12/19/2015

The Force Awakens has opened at a record shattering amount around $250 million domestic. This is according to current estimantes and will vary either up or down after the final amounts are released on Monday. These estimates are based on Thursday previews as Friday totals.

UPDATE 12/20/2015

The new estimates are in and are more accurate, with an opening weekend around $238 million domestic and $517 million worldwide.

UPDATE 12/21/2015 First Long Range Forcast

The following forecast attempts to project the the final gross for the film. These numbers are based on conservative assumptions and may seem low. First off, The Force Awakens is experiencing the greatest audience responses and reviews of the year, which means the film will have above average word of mouth. Stacking good word of mouth on top of the diehard fanbase, The Force Awakens will have a very good chance of becoming the highest grossing film of all time.

Based just on the estimated opening weekend of $238 million, the films final domestic gross will end up around $636 million and a final worldwide total of $1.6 billion. Like I mentioned, these will seem low but they're conservative. On the extream end, the film can gross as high as $979 million and $2.4 billion worldwide but it's unlikley. A realistic projection is a domestic gross of $800 million and a worldwide gross just over $2 billion.

The second weekend gross will allow for a better long range projection.

UPDATE 12/20/2015

The official opening weekend was $247.9 million domestic and $526.9 million worldwide total.

UPDATE 12/26/2015

The second weekend is an estimated $161 million bringing the domestic total up to $552 million and a staggering $954 million worldwide. If these domestic totals hold out, the film has the potential to gross over $800 million.

UPDATE 12/28/2015 Final Box Office Projections

Based upon the most recent estiments following two incredible weeks in theaters the final domestic gross can be as high as $858 million and $2.1 billion worldwide. These are the extreme end of projections but, there is the possibility that the film will surpass these projections. Most likley the films will gross between $704 and $850 million and will surpass $2 billion worldwide.

UPDATE 12/28/2016

In two weeks the film has grossed $540 million domestically and surpassed $1 billion worldwide.

UPDATE 1/1/2015

The Force Awakens is still performing extreamly well and has not declined as sharply a expected after three weeks. After this weekend the movies domestic gross I expected to be over $740 million and just a few more days from becoming the highest grossing domestic film of all time. If it continues this way, the film could gross well over $900 million and even stratch at $1 billion domestic.

UPDATE 1/9/2016

The films has already surpassed Avatar at the all time domestic grosser ever and now has it's eyes set on moving it's domestic haul over $800 million and $1.6 billion worldwide after this weekend.

UPDATE 2/3/2016

The Force Awakens will be pushing past the $2 billion worldwide this weekend but still has a way to go to push past Avatar's mark of $2.7 billion worldwide. Currently, the film sits at $896.5 million domestic and $1.9 billion worldwide.

The Newest Force Awakens Trailer

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