The Star Wars vs. Avatar box office race is heating up as Episode VII: The Force Awakens just became the fastest film in history to hit the $1 billion mark.
The latest in the space opera film series didn’t surprise anyone with its stellar opening, but even box office analysts, who predicted big things are somewhat taken aback by just how well it’s doing.
After 10 days of release (counting the Thursday night opening on December 17), director J.J. Abrams’ effort is averaging more than $109 million per day.
— Variety (@Variety) December 27, 2015
Plugging that figure into the Star Wars vs. Avatar race, it’s not immediately clear what this means for the entirety of The Force Awakens‘ run, but this article will attempt to make sense of it.
Avatar played theaters for around 7.5 months (domestic). In that time, it grossed just south of $750 million ($100 million per month or $3.33 million per day).
Internationally, the film grossed more than $2 billion for a final tally of almost $2.8 billion.
This is where it gets difficult.
Foreign totals are taken from 75 countries in which the film played, according to Box Office Mojo. The rollout started on December 17, 2009, and stayed in different locations for different lengths of time.
For example, Russia kept Avatar going strong for close to a year while smaller markets like the Dominican Republic were done with it after about two months.
China was the film’s biggest overseas market, where it grossed $204 million.
The Force Awakens doesn’t open there until Jan. 9, so obviously its tally is included nowhere in TFA‘s record-breaking numbers.
Thus far, you can’t really make an apples-to-apples comparison in the Star Wars vs. Avatar box office race because of this and the fact that TFA is only playing in 49 markets at present.
But you can examine Avatar‘s performance over the same period of time — those first 10 days — and extrapolate where it finished in domestic box office.
Going back to the data from Box Office Mojo, Avatar had grossed $212 million domestically to TFA‘s $544 million.
After 20 days, Avatar was at just north of $374 million domestic, or $18.722 million per day, which means that it had only fallen back in daily totals by close to 12 percent.
In another 10 days, those watching the Star Wars vs. Avatar race will have a little better idea of The Force Awakens‘ staying power.
— Variety (@Variety) December 23, 2015
But if it eases by just 12 percent, then it would be looking at an additional $478 million, which would put it over the $1 billion mark domestically.
At this point, such a performance is unheard of. It would also almost certainly require fanboys to keep going to theaters for repeat viewings.
Considering that some of us know people, who’ve already seen The Force Awakens four times on the big screen, it seems unsustainable.
But the film has certainly been full of surprises to this point.
While it makes sense that TFA‘s meteoric rise at the box office would also mean a deeper dip than what Avatar experienced through its own steady pacing, what if Star Wars: The Force Awakens ends up playing for 7.5 months?
By the end of Avatar‘s run, it had fallen off from its 10-day average by 85 percent. If the new Star Wars film ends up playing for that same length of time (234 days to be exact), its daily average could be around $8.3 million per day using the same ratios.
That could place it at around $1.9 billion in domestic box office. In the case of Avatar, domestic box office comprised only around 27.28 percent of the overall performance.
All ratios being the same, you could see a final box office tally for Star Wars: The Force Awakens of close to $7 billion worldwide.
Keep in mind, that’s not a prediction, just as “apples-to-apples” as this comparison can get for now.
Final verdict: the Force is looking strong for The Force Awakens in the Star Wars vs. Avatar race. While you shouldn’t expect $7 billion worldwide, doing just half that would put it at $3.5 billion.
That said, it’s looking like TFA will be more than capable of beating the $2.8 billion tally of Avatar and then some.
[Image via Star Wars: The Force Awakens screen grab]