On its arrival on screens across the world in late 2015, Star Wars: The Force Awakens was greeted by a familiar rival in Jurassic World. When The Phantom Menace was released in 1999, it was chased by the thunderous prehistoric monster, Jurassic Park. So, 16 years later, who wins? The latest Star Wars film is the 7th in the series created by George Lucas, and the first to be released since Lucasfilms’ buyout by Disney. Jurassic World, created by the Universal-owned Comcast, is the third dino-centric drama to be released.
Star Wars: The Force Awakens sees the return of Harrison Ford and his eloquent sidekick, Chewbacca, in a resurgence of the rebellion against the plastic-clad forces of the Empire. Jurassic World stars Chris Pratt and Bryce Dallas-Howard and goes back to the dinosaur-packed theme park of the original, adding a darker, topical twist with a genetically-engineered dinosaur.
The dinosaur-light sabre face-off started with the release of the Star Wars trailer, which smashed like an asteroid through previous records to be the most-watched of all time. At the box office, however, Jurassic World grossed $1.7bn for its Universal-owned studio, Comcast, earning the first billion within a record-busting13 days of opening. It may not hold this record for long, though. While the tills are still ringing for Star Wars, The Force Awakens broke Jurassic World’s record-breaking first weekend figures with ticket sales of $529m, beating Jurassic World’s opening weekend total of $525m.
The force has awakened on both sides of the Atlantic, too. Opening weekend in the US and Canada brought in $248m, and the film broke opening weekend records in Britain and Ireland with £34m.
Since buying Lucasfilms in 2012, Disney has invested heavily in reigniting the sci-fi franchise. As well as The Force Awakens (which picks up where 1983’s Return of the Jedi left off) and two further episodes in the space saga, it has plans for spin-off movies, theme parks and other ventures.
Disney have played an audacious move, ruthlessly unleashing The Force Awakens into the end-of-year holiday market, traditionally the turf of ‘serious’, Oscar-contending movies. With plans to release a spin-off in December 2016, this may be a game-changer.
The signs are that the reawakening Star Wars franchise, with the combination of old stars, attractive new characters and the directorship of JJ Abrams, will be the blockbuster of blockbusters in a massive year for the cinema. In the UK, by the end of 2015 it had already sent the dinosaurs scuttling back into the undergrowth.
The results of two highly successful sci-fi titans returning to the screens have been big profits for both studios – but the signs are that Disney’s bold investment in the galaxy far, far away will be the ultimate winner. The company’s share price due to Star Wars has gone up by over 20% against Comcast’s 6.34%. Surely this can only rise with each new part of the franchise to be released.