One of the most hyped films of all time is under three months away, but will Star Wars Episode VII be the first ever $3 billion movie at the box office? (Thanks to Henry Eastham on helping me to gather some data and info on this topic…)
Back in October 2012, Disney acquired Lucasfilm for a sum of over $4 billion. Since then, the world has been massively anticipating the release of Star Wars: Episode VII – The Force Awakens and the continuation of the most iconic movie series of all time.
With such hype, we all know the film will be a smash hit at the box office, but will it break all records and hit $3 billion worldwide? Let’s find out.
(Just to clarify, we’re talking worldwide gross, and not North America domestic, because that would really be something spectacular.)
The First Six Films
So, the first place to start when thinking about this is the records of the previous Star Wars films. Everybody knows they all did well, but how well, and will that be a good indicator as to the potential performance of Episode VII?
Well, the beloved original trilogy was a smash hit at the box office, with A New Hope taking a record-breaking $775m in 1977 (equivalent to $2.8bn in 2015 – making it the third highest-grossing film of all time adjusted for inflation), The Empire Strikes Back with $535m in 1980 (about $1.5bn now) and Return Of The Jedi with $573m in 1983 (about $1.4bn now).
So, you can see that all three films were a smash hit, and would place right at the top of the inflation-adjusted highest-grossing list, suggesting that The Force Awakens would also be a big hit.
Further support for the $3 billion theory comes from 1999’s The Phantom Menace, which grossed around $930m in its initial release, and then went up to just over one billion after a 2012 3D re-release.
2002’s Attack Of The Clones and 2005’s Revenge Of The Sith then took a little dive owing to the poor quality of Episodes I & II, however they still took $650m and $849m respectively worldwide, suggesting fever for Star Wars is still strong.
The two biggest hits in relation to their respective trilogies are clearly the first instalments (Episode IV and I), clearly pointing towards Episode VII, the first in the newest trilogy, being a huge hit.
What’s more is that The Force Awakens is released in December, at peak Christmas holiday time, whereas the first six films were released in May, so extra free time means people are more likely to go to the movies, and there’s no time like Christmas when that’s likely, giving Episode VII a huge advantage over its predecessors.
Is $3bn possible yet?
The performance of the previous Star Wars films is all well and good, but if no other film has achieved $3bn, why should it be Episode VII?
The current highest-grossing film of all time is 2009’s Avatar with $2.7bn, and 1997’s Titanic in second with $2.2bn. However, if you adjust Avatar’s gross for inflation in 2015, you get a take of $3.020bn, just taking it over the line for the first year ever. (Gone With The Wind is adjusted at $3.4bn, however different moviegoing habits in 1939 make that a little redundant in this case…)
Meanwhile, we’ve been getting at least one $1bn hitter every year since 2007 (all PG-13/12A blockbusters), giving this film even more hope to really break the bank, as it’s obviously in the realms of filmgoers’ habits.
The State Of The Box Office
2014 was a dire year at the box office worldwide, epitomised by the lowest amount of $1bn films since 2009, however it seems that the global box office is now really on the rise.
In 2015, we’ve had four films all hit $1bn, and really exceed analysts’ expectations. Although Avengers: Age Of Ultron wasn’t as stunning as expected at only $1.4bn worldwide (still 6th on the all time list), three others have shown that this year really looks like it’s going to be high on ticket takings.
Furious 7 stunned the world by becoming the fastest film to gross $1bn, in only 17 days, and then finished its run with an amazing $1.5bn. Then, Jurassic World came along and took the highest-grossing opening weekend of all time at over $500m, got to $1bn in just 13 days, and then settled around $1.65bn (the third highest ever). Minions also grossed over $1bn, however it was rated U/G, and took a lot longer to get going, so that doesn’t quite prove Star Wars’ massive potential.
Finally, there’s China. The Chinese now play the second most significant part in the worldwide box office after the US & Canada combined, seeing as they’re basically the reason Furious 7 and Jurassic World did so well this year.
Although the film won’t be released at the same time as the rest of the world, Episode VII will be released on January 29, 2016, just over a week before the huge holiday of Chinese New Year on February 8. This means that, unlike Furious 7 in April and Jurassic World in June, Star Wars Episode VII has got the second biggest box office contributor right in the prime position to make a killing, and as Chinese interest for Hollywood continues to grow (the original trilogy was only first officially shown this year), Episode VII will surely be a massive hit over there.
So, in short. YES, I believe that Star Wars: Episode VII – The Force Awakens will be the first ever movie to take $3 billion at the box office. Can’t wait!