'Star Wars' Box Office: "People Are Seeing It Three and Four Times"
Repeat viewers and females are playing an increased role in the movie's record-shattering run as the audience broadens out.
There's no slowing down Star Wars: The Force Awakens, thanks in part to ardent fans watching the movie multiple times and a growing female audience.
J.J. Abrams' tentpole continued to crush one record after another at the Christmas box office, finishing the weekend with a whopping 10-day domestic total of $544.6 million and crossing the $1 billion mark globally faster than any film in history.
"The speed with which records are falling is a testament to the audience broadening out. And you can't do these kind of numbers without extraordinary repeat business," said Disney distribution president Dave Hollis. "We know anecdotally people are seeing it three and four times. Everyone wants to be part of something that has become a cultural phenomenon."
While males continue to show up in force, increased interest among women and girls is another key reason why Force Awakens — featuring a strong female heroine in Daisy Ridley's character, Rey — will soon overtake the $760 million earned by 2009's Avatar domestically to become the top-grossing film of all time in the U.S. and Canada.
Exit surveys don't target repeat viewers, but they do reveal how the audience makeup is shifting.
Force Awakens skewed heavily male, or 67 percent, when opening domestically over the Dec. 18-20 weekend, according to industry leader Rentrak, which conducts real-time exit polls via PostTrak. The gender breakdown changed by Christmas weekend, with males making up 62 percent of the audience and females, 38 percent.
Disney always knew that males would be the demo most keen to see Force Awakens, so went to great lengths to target females in its marketing campaign, as well as families.
The audience is also becoming more diverse, according to PostTrak. Initially, 63 percent of ticket buyers were Caucasian, followed by Hispanics (12 percent) and African-Americans (10 percent). Over Christmas weekend, those numbers changed to 57 percent, 15 percent and 11 percent, respectively.
Force Awakens is expected to pass Avatar by the end of New Year's weekend in North America, and even has a shot of ultimately hitting $1 billion domestically. It's still not clear, however, whether Force Awakens can eclipse Avatar's record global gross of $2.8 billion, although most believe it will easily cross $2 billion worldwide, putting it in the range of 1997's Titanic, the No. 2 title of all time ($2.19 billion). (Titanic was especially famous for repeat viewings.)
A key test will be China, where Force Awakens doesn't open until Jan. 9. Box-office experts are already predicting that it will outgross the $238 million earned by Jurassic World in China, even though the Star Wars franchise isn't a known quantity.