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‘Star Wars: The Force Awakens’ to become the highest-grossing U.S. film of all time

It took the new 'Star Wars' movie just over two weeks to topple 'Avatar.'


Eric Geller

Internet Culture

Posted on Jan 6, 2016   Updated on May 27, 2021, 9:58 am CDT

Star Wars: The Force Awakens will become the highest-grossing film in U.S. history on Wednesday, shattering a record held for six years by James Cameron’s Avatar with blinding speed as it continues its unprecedented box-office domination.

J.J. Abrams’s film, the seventh installment in the Star Wars saga, earned $8 million in the United States on Tuesday, bringing its total to $758.2 million. With less than $2 million separating it from Avatar’s $760.5-million domestic gross, The Force Awakens is certain to claim the top spot on Wednesday, 20 days after its release.

The milestone represents the latest vindication of the Walt Disney Company’s decision to buy Lucasfilm, the owner of Star Wars, for $4 billion in October 2012. Disney spent approximately $200 million making the new film, the first in a trilogy of sequels set 30 years after 1983’s Return of the Jedi.

The Force Awakens, considered perhaps the most anticipated Hollywood release in modern history, reunites Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill), Han Solo (Harrison Ford), and Leia Organa (Carrie Fisher) as they guide new heroes Rey (Daisy Ridley), Finn (John Boyega), and Poe Dameron (Oscar Isaac) in the face of rising threats from the dark side of the Force and the remnants of the Empire.

The film has claimed U.S. records with astonishing speed, beginning with an eye-popping $248 million opening weekend and $119 million opening day. It holds 40 box-office records ranging from largest second and third weekends to highest Christmas Day and New Year’s Day earnings. Avatar and The Twilight Saga: Eclipse are tied for second place with eight records each.

The new movie reached $1 billion in just 12 days, one day faster than previous record-holder Jurassic World, which was released in the much more favorable month of June and had a simultaneous opening in China, the world’s second-largest movie market. (The Force Awakens opens in China on Jan. 9.)

Avatar, which proved especially popular overseas, still holds the worldwide box-office crown with a staggering $2.78-billion global gross. Prior to Tuesday’s earnings, The Force Awakens’ global gross stood at $1.55 billion. It is the fourth highest-grossing movie worldwide to date.

Disney’s new Star Wars movie has proven popular with longtime fans, newcomers, and critics alike. It holds a 94 percent “certified fresh” rating on Rotten Tomatoes, tied with A New Hope (1977) and The Empire Strikes Back (1980), which are widely considered the saga’s best installments. Audiences have especially praised the diversity of the film’s cast and the decision to put a young woman at the center of the story.

Disney is producing standalone films between installments of the new trilogy. The first spinoff, Rogue One, will be released on Dec. 16, 2016. Episode VIII is set for release on May 26, 2017; the second standalone film, a young Han Solo adventure, will follow in 2018; and Episode IX will conclude the new trilogy in 2019.

Star Wars is considered the world’s most valuable franchise, with a total of approximately $42 billion in revenue across its various market segments, easily surpassing runner-up Harry Potter, which is worth about $25 billion.

Screengrab via Star Wars/YouTube

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*First Published: Jan 6, 2016, 2:18 pm CST