Here’s why ‘Star Wars: The Force Awakens’ fell way short of ‘Avatar’s’ box office record

02.05.16 2 years ago

The latest press release from Disney confirms once again the following irrefutable fact: Star Wars: The Force Awakens is a massive box office hit. But the numbers put forth today also confirm the predictions of the box office experts we surveyed several weeks ago: there's simply no way J.J. Abrams' franchise reboot can touch Avatar's worldwide record of more than $2.7 billion.

It would take a great cynic indeed to sniff at these Star Wars numbers. The film is by far the domestic box-office champ, having now racked up over $900 million in North American receipts in its 50th day of release (Avatar made $749 million). It will also pass the $2 billion mark globally on Saturday. But it's still a whopping $700 million off from Avatar's worldwide take, thanks to a less-robust-than-expected performance in several key international markets including Russia, China and South Korea. 

In Korea, for example, Avatar made over $105 million by the end of its run, compared to just $23 million for Star Wars: The Force Awakens after a full seven weeks of release. In Russia, Avatar made $117 million by the end of its run, compared to $24 million for The Force Awakens (7 week total). And in China, Avatar cashed in with $204 million vs. The Force Awakens' $122 million there after four weeks — a particularly sizeable gap when you consider that China is a much more robust market than it was six years ago.

And the list goes on. Here are a few other country-by-country comparisons to account for the wide disparity between the two films internationally:


Avatar: $105 million
Star Wars – The Force Awakens: $64 million (seven week total)


Avatar: $162 million
Star Wars – The Force Awakens: $104 million (seven weeks)


Avatar: $175 million
Star Wars – The Force Awakens: $80 million (seven weeks)


Avatar: $171 million
Star Wars – The Force Awakens: $84 million (seven weeks)

Bottom line: Star Wars simply doesn't boast the kind of international appeal needed to match Avatar's historic grosses, which were in large part made possible by a marketing campaign that heralded the James Cameron sci-fi as a “new frontier of technology and the new frontier of cinematic experience,” in the words of Box Office Media analyst Daniel Loria.

None of this should in any way be construed as an attempt to undermine The Force Awakens' gargantuan box-office performance. One look at the records smashed by the critically-beloved space epic are proof positive of its enormous commercial impact. From today's press release:

·       Biggest domestic preview gross ($57 million)
·       Biggest opening day domestically ($119.1 million)
·       Biggest domestic second weekend ($149.2 million) 
·       Biggest domestic third weekend ($90.2 million)
·       Biggest opening week domestically ($390.8 million)
·       Biggest opening weekend in 18 territories: U.K. (4-day), Australia, Russia,      
        Germany, Sweden, Norway, Finland, Austria, Poland (3-day), Denmark (5-day), 
        Romania, Hungary, Bulgaria, Croatia, Ukraine, Iceland, Serbia, New Zealand
·       Fastest film to $1B globally (12 days)
·       Biggest film of all time in the U.S. and the U.K.

For more from the box office analysts we interviewed earlier in the year, you can read the full piece here.

(All figures courtesy of Box Office Mojo.)

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