OK, it's been a couple of weeks and so we can talk about Star Wars now, right? Great. But I don't want to talk about spoilers, I want to talk about $.
After this weekend, The Force Awakens will be in striking distance of Avatar's all-time domestic record. Having spent more than 12 years of my life working at a movie theatre, I'm kind of a box office nerd. Thus, seeing a film I didn't care for fall at the hands of one that I loved is as satisfying a feeling as you can imagine. However, I do have a few gripes as well as hopes for where this seventh Star Wars films ends up in the record books.
First, as everyone knows, the cost of seeing a movie is much higher these days than it was in the past (although the theatre by my place only charges $4.50 for a matinee so I must be stuck in 1997...). This is even more true thanks to the premiums placed on large screens like IMAX and, of course, the dreaded 3D upcharge. Avatar was released at the height of the 3D revival's popularity and much of the hype surrounding the film — since it surely couldn't have been the script — was the digital effects that demanded to be seen in the third dimension. Because of this, The Force Awakens should have a pretty easy time surpassing James Cameron's 2009 film even after adjustments are made for inflation, but what about his 1997 film?
There's no arguing that Titanic was a behemoth when it open in '97 and played well into 1998. What's really interesting about both Cameron films is that they debuted to moderate numbers but fell by only minuscule amounts each subsequent week. In the case of Titanic, the film took in less than $30 in its first weekend but kept making around that number for weeks and weeks. In fact, the film still holds the record for most consecutive #1 weekends with 15! That's nearly four months of beating every other film released. Eventually, the movie closed with an unheard of (at the time) $600 million and a record that would last more than a decade.
To be fair, Star Wars has seen a pretty decent hold itself considering how front-loaded its performance could have been. Part of this could have to do with its holiday bow, but, anecdotally, many moviegoers (myself included) are returning to cinemas for repeat viewings. If that keeps up, could The Force Awakens be the first film for gross a billion domestically? It's possible.
For me, the true test of whether The Force Awakens really reigns supreme amongst modern blockbusters is whether it ultimately sells more tickets than Titanic and, right now, inflation is keeping Titanic afloat above the Force. Box Office Mojo has a way of calculating such things and The Force Awakens would have to sell more than 135,474,500 tickets in order to do that and become the fifth all-time highest grossing film domestically when adjusted for inflation (that's a mouthful, but it's important). Since figuring out this adjusted ticket sales business isn't exactly easy, BOM has yet to add The Force Awakens' tally, but I'm sure that will come whenever the film leaves theatres.
If you'll scroll up that all-time adjusted list, you'll notice the probably-never-going-to-be-beaten Gone With the Wind at #1 and then another familiar title in a distant second: Star Wars. I don't think anyone expects that The Force Awakens could beat A New Hope at a fair box office fight, but, for my money, the film needs to sink the ship in order to truly show the power of the Force. So get your wallets out, folks.