J.J. Abrams' record-shattering Star Wars: The Force Awakens has blasted past $1 billion globally faster than any film in history, as well as leading the biggest Christmas weekend ever at the North American box office with a stunning $153.5 million for an early domestic haul of $544.6 million.
The Disney and Lucasfilm tentpole crossed $1 billion on Sunday, its 12th day in release. Buoyed by a day-and-date release in China — where it debuted to nearly $100 million — Jurassic World was the previous record-holder at 13 days. Force Awakens accomplished the feat without a berth in the world's second-largest moviegoing market, where it doesn't roll out until Jan. 9. Although the sci-fi franchise isn't a known quantity in China, most expect Force Awakens to come in ahead of the $228 million earned all in by Jurassic World. The movie’s performance there is key to the future of the reinvigorated series, considering China will soon overtake North America to become the world’s top moviegoing market.
Force Awakens also snatched the record for biggest second weekend from Jurassic World, which earned $106 million domestically in its sophomore outing.
"The speed with which records are falling is a testament to the audience broadening out. And you're seeing extraordinary repeat business," said Disney distribution chief Dave Hollis. "We know anecdotally there are people who are seeing the movie three and four times. Everybody wants to be part of something that has become a cultural phenomenon."
Overseas, Force Awakens took in $133.3 million for a foreign total of $546 million and worldwide haul of $1.09 billion. The U.K. leads with a mammoth $97.2 million, followed by Germany ($54.3 million), France ($47.8 million), Australia ($35.7 million) and Japan ($31.3 million).
At this rate, there's no saying how high the Star Wars reboot will ultimately fly. Domestically, it's now assured of eclipsing 2009's Avatar ($760.5 million) to become the top-grossing title of all time, not accounting for inflation. Some even believe it will earn north of $1 billion in North America.
Between Force Awakens and a flurry of new movies, revenue over Christmas weekend clocked in at $300 million-plus for the first time ever, well ahead of the $269 million grossed in 2009 (it's also only the second time in history that revenue has crossed $300 million after last weekend, when Star Wars first opened). Five movies opened nationwide over Christmas — Daddy's Home, Joy, Concussion, The Big Short and Point Break — while Quentin Tarantino's The Hateful Eight and Alejandro G. Inarritu's The Revenant launched in select locations.
Daddy's Home, starring Mark Wahlberg and Will Ferrell, fared the best. The comedy enjoyed one of the biggest Christmas openings of all time with $38.8 million, ahead of expectations. Daddy's Home, from Paramount and Red Granite, cost $50 million and was produced by Ferrell and Adam McKay's Gary Sanchez Productions. The film played to all age groups, and earned a B+ CinemaScore.
"This is a movie that the whole family can go to together," said Paramount vice chairman Rob Moore. "This is the Star Wars for comedy."
Overseas, Daddy's Home debuted to $4.4 million from its first four markets, led by the U.K., where it came in No. 2 behind Force Awakens with $2.5 million. It also placed No. 2 in Australia with a promising $1.5 million.
David O. Russell's Joy, starring Jennifer Lawrence, bowed at No. 3 in North America with a solid $17.5 million from 2,896 theaters. Likewise earning a B+ CinemaScore, Joy skewed female (66 percent), while 77 percent of the audience was over the age of 25. The $60 million dramedy, loosely based on the life of Joy Mangano, creator of the Miracle Mop, marks Russell's second-best opening after 2013's American Hustle ($19.1 million).
"I think audiences are responding to female empowerment and empowerment in general, as well as to the virtuoso acting and David O. Russell's storytelling," said Fox domestic distribution president Chris Aronson.
Joy is among a handful of awards contenders that waited until the year-end holidays to open, so as to take advantage of the upcoming Golden Globes ceremony and Oscar nominations.
Another is Sony and Village Roadshow's Concussion, starring Will Smith. Despite earning an A CinemaScore, the NFL drama placed No. 6 behind holdovers Sisters and Alvin and the Chipmunks: The Road Chip with an estimated $11 million from 2,841 theaters. That's the lowest wide opening of Smith's career.
Heading into Christmas, tracking suggested the $35 million movie would open in the high-teen millions, although Sony was much more conservative in suggesting $8 million-$10 million.
"We're off to a good start, and the picture will resonate for weeks to come," said Sony distribution chief Rory Bruer. "I thought the demos were great in terms of having a 50-50 split between males and females. And Will Smith's performance is really quite amazing."
Concussion found itself in a relatively close race with another awards hopeful, Big Short, directed by McKay and starring Christian Bale, Steve Carell, Ryan Gosling, Brad Pitt and Melissa Leo. The financial dramedy, playing in only 1,585 locations, exceeded expectations in grossing an estimated $10.5 million for the weekend and $14.5 million for the five days (it rolled out nationwide on Wednesday after a limited run). To date, Big Short has earned $16 million.
Paramount teamed with New Regency and Pitt's Plan B Entertainment in making the $28 million movie, which will expand into more than 2,500 theaters on Jan. 8.
Alcon Entertainment's extreme-sports extravaganza Point Break is proving a major disappointment, considering its $100 million budget. A loose remake of the classic 1991 film, the movie debuted to $10.2 million after receiving a B CinemaScore.
Point Break has already opened in China, where it has grossed $40 million to date, and several other smaller Asian markets for a foreign cume so far north of $43 million. Alcon has suffered a string of box-office disappointments, including last year's big-budget flop Transcendence, starring Johnny Depp.
Universal's Sisters and Fox's Road Chip performed nicely in their second weekends. Sisters, starring Tina Fey and Amy Poehler, placed No. 4 with $13.9 million for a domestic total of $37.1 million, while Road Chip rounded out the top five with $12.7 million for a domestic cume of $39.3 million. Sisters is benefiting from appealing to females, while Road Chip caters to families and younger tots.
The week between Christmas and New Year's weekend is the most lucrative corridor of the year in terms of moviegoing, and the new films are hoping for strong multiples even with Force Awakens dominating much of the marketplace.
At the specialty box office, Hateful Eight did impressive business in its exclusive 70mm roadshow, grossing $4.5 million from 100 theaters for a location average of $45,366. The movie's performance so far is a needed win for The Weinstein Co., which spent millions to fulfill its promise to Tarantino to make the revenge Western available in film.
"I was hoping for $3.5 million, so to be a million over that is tremendous," said TWC's Erik Lomis. "This bodes very well for the film's expansion into more than 2,000 theaters on Dec. 31."
Revenant, starring Leonardo DiCaprio, also soared in its debut, grossing $471,000 from four theaters in New York and Los Angeles for a location average of $117,750, the second-best showing of the year to date. Fox and New Regency are partners on the movie.
Among holdovers at the specialty box office, Son of Saul grossed $33,302 from four theaters in its second weekend for a location average of $8,236 and cume of $97,186 for Sony Pictures Classics.