We’re just over one hundred days away from what is arguably the most anticipated film of all time: Star Wars: The Force Awakens. At least it is for me, and it probably is for you as well. Unlike the prequels, which brought the story to the point where A New Hope begins, the new film will actually move the saga forward, reuniting the original Star Wars characters with a fresh cast. The expectations are at a fever pitch, and the stakes are through the roof. It’s almost unfair. It’s being talked up so much that if The Force Awakens doesn’t become the highest-grossing movie of all time and get 107% on Rotten Tomatoes, it will be dubbed a disappointment. We’re still a couple of months away, but I thought it would be fun to delve into Star Wars: The Force Awakens’ box office prospects.
As a downright religious Star Wars fan, I’m not ashamed to admit this: it will break my heart to see this lose to Jurassic World at the box office. But it is a real possibility. That film took in about $640 million domestically, which isn’t a total you can easily beat. So can The Force Awakens match that or not? One thing’s for sure: it won’t break $600 million on the Star Wars logo alone. A lot’s going to depend on how Disney chooses to market the film in the next sixteen weeks. They’ll need to hint at some plot, for one. As great as the teasers were, they were just that; no plot was revealed, and they just played off of nostalgia while showing off some of the new characters. Knowing J. J. Abrams, they’ll try to keep the plot held tightly under wraps, and that just might not work.
Also, Jurassic World had one thing The Force Awakens doesn’t have. Although hardly recognized for it, he’s easily the biggest draw of the moment: Chris Pratt. His sly charm and energy is what propelled Jurassic World, Guardians of the Galaxy, and The LEGO Movie to record numbers, and The Force Awakens seems to lack a star of similar charisma. At 73 years old, Harrison Ford doesn’t count, even if he’s a blatant influence on Pratt himself. Avatar didn’t need anybody of that description to become the biggest grosser ever, but having an underlying tongue-in-cheek tone is what helped films like Jurassic World, The Avengers and Pirates of the Caribbean become so huge. And let’s face it: Star Wars films aren’t exactly known for their humor.
So what should we predict for Star Wars: The Force Awakens at the domestic box office? Because of its sheer size and anticipation, it’s one of the toughest films to predict, ever. I do think it will set the opening weekend record, but it’s unclear how it will fare over the rest of the holiday season and into 2016. A lot will depend on critical reception and word-of-mouth. $480 million should be considered the floor. That’s what Revenge of the Sith did adjusted for inflation, and it seems safe to assume this is a whole lot more anticipated than that was. Can it beat Jurassic World? Or Titanic? Or Avatar? I’d say there’s a 75% chance it beats the first two, and I’m 50/50 on the third. Studios are using their heads and staying away from releasing any huge films in December, so competition shouldn’t be so bad. Hell, it could be out of theaters by the time Kung Fu Panda 3 hits theaters, or it could still be chugging along when Batman fights Superman (especially if it does as well with the Oscars as I’m expecting). As it stands, I’m predicting a $240 million opening weekend and a $700 million final gross. Could be way over, could be way under. It’s unreasonable to look at a smaller $180 million opening/$500 million total with disappointment. It’s a tough game to play with numbers this huge, but if anybody’s going to dethrone James Cameron, it’s Luke Skywalker.