According to Walt Disney DIS +3.54%, the film will be opening in (deep breath) 4,100+ theaters, 3,300+ 3D locations, a record 392 IMAX screens (13 of which are glorious 70mm), 451 “premium large format” screens and 146 D-Box options (if it’s anything like Star Tours, those theaters will be filled with “second hand” popcorn, soda and snacks on the floors). That does mean the news about 3,900 theaters that I wrote about on Friday was a low-ball count, but 4,100 theaters is still nowhere near a record theater count (4,468 for Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn) and around the fifth or sixth biggest release for 2015 depending on what the final screen count ends up being. That means scoring the opening weekend record (Jurassic World earning $208.8 million in 4,274 theaters) is still somewhat of an uphill battle.
Star Wars: The Force Awakens would have to earn $50,591 per-theater, which would be a record for a wide release, in order to make $208.9 million and take the record. It’s doable, but it’s not going to be a cake walk. I have to imagine that Disney gave some thought to just opening the darn thing on Wednesday and avoid all of this speculation. Perhaps had they known that The Good Dinosaur wouldn’t be as strong as they hoped, they would have done so. But no matter how close it gets to the opening weekend record, I do think the Thursday single-day record and perhaps the Friday single-day record is in jeopardy.
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2 made an eye-popping $43 million at midnight in July of 2011, well above the over/under $30m grosses of other such blockbusters like The Dark Knight Rises, Twilight, Twilight, Twilight and Avengers: Age of Ultron. Harry Potter 7.2 also broke the Friday single-day record with $91m in a “full day.” Of course, that film was famously front-loaded as all hell, earning 25% of its record-breaking $169m weekend haul and pulling in a grisly 1.85x weekend multiplier. The biggest “pure” Friday (not counting Thursday/midnight) belongs to Jurassic World and its $64.1m opening day, which combined with $18.5m worth of Thursday previews gave it a $81.9m “single day” gross, third behind Harry Potter 7.2, and Avengers: Age of Ultron‘s $84m opening day.
It stands to reason that Star Wars: The Force Awakens has a shot at nabbing the first $50 million Thursday/midnight figure and the first $100m single-day gross. It would be fitting since Revenge of the Sith was the first film to snag $50m in a single day when it opened on a Thursday in May of 2005. If The Force Awakens snags $100m in a single day, it will be tough to argue that the opening weekend record is not going to fall as well. For it to fails to break the record with a $100m Friday, it would have to be as front-loaded as The Dark Knight Rises ($77m Friday/$160m weekend) or a Twilight sequel or late-in-the-game Harry Potter movie.
In terms of mega-openings that aren’t Twilight sequels or Harry Potter movies, we’re probably looking at a worst case scenario of a 2.25x weekend multiplier (think The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey). But if we’re somewhat more optimistic, we’re hopefully looking at something between 2.35x (Iron Man 3, The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug) and 2.5x (most Marvel movies, I Am Legend). A 2.8x multiplier (Avatar, The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe) is possible, but obviously the bigger that Friday turns out to be then the lower the multiplier will be. It’s not like we’re looking at a $100m Friday and then a $300m opening weekend. If the film goes bats**t insane on Friday (say, $125m), we’re probably going to be seeing a Fault in Our Stars-type multiplier for the weekend.
Of course, if it “only” pulls down $85 million on Friday (or the entirety of The Hobbit‘s record-setting $84m December opening weekend in a single day), then that multiplier may go up. Or we may just be looking at a pretty front-loaded affair at least at the start. After all, The Dark Knight pulled in a miserable (for its day) 2.3x weekend multiplier ($67m/$158m) but then racked up $66m in its first three weekdays. Obviously, December is all about weekdays, and how well the film performs in its first few days after the opening weekend will give insight into where it’s going (in America) long-term, but that’s for another post that I will plan after I am allowed to talk about the film and spoil all of the Muppet cameos.
This whole post has been a lot of “if/when/maybe” without any firm prediction. So let’s just run some scenarios. A “moderately realistic” scenario sees an $80 million single day gross, followed by a 2.35x weekend multiplier to get the film to just over/under $188 million for the weekend. The “trust-but-verify” opening weekend scenario sees a $90-$92m Friday gross, with both Friday and Thursday previews flirting with the record books, with a 2.25x weekend multiplier for an over/under a $208.8m weekend. And of course, the pie-in-the-sky scenario sees a Thursday preview result of $50m, a Friday gross of $100m+, and a weekend multiplier of, eh, 2.3x for an utterly wild $230m opening weekend.
The conventional wisdom says between $180m and $220m for the weekend, and I see little reason to go much higher or lower than that at least until the reviews drop in about 15 hours. But this is all, of course, speculation because I like doing the comparisons and so that I can use this math when we get figures starting on Friday morning. Heck, the circumstances of a new Star Wars film dropping in the middle of a blockbuster-drenched environment, in December no less, creates a situation where we might not know for sure how big the weekend is going to be until we get those Sunday morning numbers. What a nostalgic throwback that will be! But yes, for those interested, my review of the film will be dropping tonight at midnight, and yes it will be as spoiler-free as possible. Until then, Autobots, roll out!
Source: Scott mendelson (Forbes)