Box Office: 'Star Wars' Beats 'The Revenant' in U.S., Storms China With Record $53M Debut

Globally, the movie has overtaken 'Jurassic World' to become the No. 3 film of all time, not accounting for inflation; 'The Revenant' vastly overperforms, underscoring Leonardo DiCaprio's star power.

J.J. Abrams' Star Wars: The Force Awakens stayed atop the North American box office in its fourth weekend after finding itself in an unexpectedly close horse race with Alejandro G. Inarritu's The Revenant, which vastly overperformed in its nationwide expansion thanks in no small measure to Leonardo DiCaprio's star power.

Domestically, Force Awakens grossed $41.6 million from 4,134 theaters for a total $812 million (it's the first movie to ever cross $800 million in the U.S.). 

The Revenant — a bloody, bruising frontier epic — is a huge victory in grossing a better-than-expected $38 million from 3,375 locations on the eve of Sunday's Golden Globes ceremony, where the big-budget title is up for best picture, best director and best actor in the drama categories. In the U.S., 70 percent of the audience polled Friday night by CinemaScore said they turned out because of DiCaprio.

Heading into the weekend, the New Regency and Fox release was only tracking to gross in the $20 million range. But in a surprise upset, The Revenant beat Force Awakens on Friday ($14.4 million versus $10.7 million) before the Star Wars blockbuster regained the lead on Saturday.

Force Awakens continued to make history in its fourth weekend, eclipsing the $1.669 billion grossed worldwide by Jurassic World to become the No. 3 title of all time behind Avatar ($2.78 billion) and Titanic ($2.19 billion) with $1.73 billion in ticket sales, not accounting for inflation. The victory was fueled by a rousing $53 million debut in China, the biggest Saturday-Sunday opening of all time in the Middle Kingdom. Imax theaters in China also set a Saturday-Sunday record with $8.1 million from 270 screens.

Overseas, Force Awakens raced past the $900 million mark, earning $104.3 million for a foreign cume of $921.4 million and passing up Transformers: Age of Extinction ($858.6 million), Frozen ($875.5 million) and The Avengers ($896.2 million) to land at No. 7 on the list of history's top-grossing films internationally. The U.K. leads with $161.4 million, the biggest showing of all time.

The Revenant is also off to an impressive start offshore with $20.2 million from nine markets for a global bow of $58.2 million.

From New Regency and Fox, the R-rated epic wasn't a cheap proposition, having cost $135 million to make. Nor is the R-rated film an easy sell, but rivals credit Fox with a smart marketing campaign. The movie first opened on Christmas Day in New York and Los Angeles; the decision to wait until now to launch everywhere paid off.

Plenty of females (43 percent) showed up, while 73 percent of the audience was over the age of 25.

The Revenant over-indexed in markets across the country — save for the Northeast — including Phoenix, Seattle, Denver, Minneapolis, Portland and Nashville. The only top markets to under-index were New York, Houston, Toronto and Miami.

"The combination of bold, ambitious and innovative filmmaking with Leo's remarkable performance is being embraced by audiences. The Revenant is prime example of our industry at its finest," said Fox domestic distribution chief Chris Aronson.

Last year, Inarritu's Birdman won the Oscar for best picture. This year's Academy Award nominees will be announced next week. The Revenant marks the widest release of Inarritu's career to date; at its widest, Birdman played in 1,213 theaters, while Babel played in 1,251.

The Revenant will quickly surpass the domestic lifetime gross of every other film Inarritu has directed. Birdman is his top-grossing film to date with $42.3 million. It's also one of the better openings for DiCaprio.

Elsewhere, Will Ferrell and Mark Wahlberg's Christmas comedy Daddy's Home came in No. 3 with $15 million from 3,483 theaters for a strong domestic total of $116.3 million. At this rate, the Paramount movie could become Ferrell's No. 2 live-action comedy of all time behind Elf ($173 million). Internationally, it grossed $10.2 million from 30 markets for a foreign tally of $37.9 million and worldwide cume of $154.2 million.

Natalie Dormer-starrer The Forest came in on the higher end of expectations, opening to $13.1 million from 2,451 theaters to place No. 4.

In marketing The Forest, Focus Features targeted younger females and Hispanic moviegoers. The story follows a young woman who goes in search of her twin sister, who has vanished in Japan. She's eventually led to a legendary forest at the base of Mount Fuji where people go to die. The Forest went out through Focus' genre label, Gramercy Pictures.

Tina Fey and Amy Poehler's comedy Sisters rounded out the top five with $7.2 million for a domestic total of $73.9 million. Internationally, it earned $3.4 million from 21 territories for a foreign cume of $8.2 million and global total of $82.1 million for the actresses.

Quentin Tarantino's The Hateful Eight prevailed in a close contest with The Big Short, grossing $6.4 million in 2,938 theaters for a domestic total of $41.5 million for The Weinstein Co. The revenge Western, now in its second weekend in wide release, placed No. 6.

The Big Short, the financial dramedy directed by Adam McKay, made a major push on the eve of the Globes, upping its theater count from roughly 1,600 to 2,529. Starring Christian Bale, Steve Carell, Ryan Gosling and Brad Pitt, the movie grossed $6.2 million for a domestic total of $42.9 million. Overseas, it grossed $4.6 million from 24 markets for a foreign total of $9.7 million and early global haul of $52.6 million.

Like The Revenant, The Big Short is up for a number of top Golden Globes, including best picture for a comedy or musical. Among other best picture contenders in the comedy/musical category, Ridley Scott's The Martian has earned $595.7 million, followed by Paul Feig's Spy ($235.7 million), Judd Apatow's Trainwreck ($139.5 million) and David O. Russell's Joy, which has earned has grossed $70.5 million since its release on Christmas Day.

George Miller's Mad Max: Fury Road is the top-grosser to date in the best picture drama category, followed by Tom McCarthy's Spotlight ($28.6 million), Todd Haynes' Carol ($13.3 million) and Lenny Abrahamson's Room ($5.2 million).

Charlie Kaufman's Anomalisa, nominated for a Globe for best animated feature, grossed $221,000 from 17 theaters in its second weekend in limited release for a location average of $13,000, on par with Room and Nebraska when they were playing in roughly the same number of locations. The movie's early domestic total is $491,000 for Paramount.

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