The Force Awakens means a lot of different things to people. Some have celebrated J.J. Abrams’ opus as a return to the whimsy of childhood. Back to a time when a blockbusters didn’t need a a pointless character stepping in poop to be “the key to all of this.” Others are treating it as a fine salve on three deep knife wounds to the back that burn with the passion of a thousand Padmé’s loves.
To the more competitive Star Wars fan, the box-office success of The Force Awakens is a tangible look at a film now considered one of the all-time greats. Every record worth breaking has been broken by The Force Awakens, and its success is as awe-inspiring as Kylo Ren’s temper tantrums. Many backs are getting patted, but the painfully hipster “well, actually” is here.
It turns out that in adjusted dollars, The Force Awakens is actually the no. 20 overall grossing movie, just behind The Sting and The Lion King. The fact that Disney is raking in the dough in a record-setting timeframe is the annoying asterisk that will have to be brought up at parties. The OG, A New Hope, is no. 2 overall on the big list with over $1.5 billion in ticket sales.
Of course, A New Hope was released in an era when movies stayed in the theaters for the better part of a year, and then it was re-released again, and again… And again. So at least there’s an argument to be made that The Force Awakens is the most popular movie ever in the shortest period of time.
But, there’s probably more screens in modern theaters, more people can see the movie now, and the original Star Wars had word of mouth to build up the sales. There was a naturally slower burn.
While all these factors don’t diminish the fact that The Force Awakens has been very, very successful, it’s good to gain a little context.