Star Wars box office speculation has been something of a pastime around the internet since Episode VII: The Force Awakens opened in theaters on Dec. 17.
Most analysts predicted big things from the first official “canon” entry since Revenge of the Sith (and some prequels-haters would say Return of the Jedi).
Still, none expected The Force Awakens to smash through domestic box office records as quickly as it did. Naturally, when it eclipsed Avatar, many wondered if the global box office record held by James Cameron’s sci-fi epic would be next.
But as The Force Awakens continues to fizzle out, it looks like it will be lucky to take the No. 2 slot ahead of Cameron’s Titanic.
Of course, that isn’t to say that TFA has any reason for shame. It only cost around $200 million to make it, and it blew past that total in its extended opening weekend.
But there is cause for concern when it comes to the long-term prospect of Star Wars box office gold.
Now, the precursor to this conclusion should note that Star Wars box office numbers will never be in the red. For as long as they continue to make movies and budget semi-wisely, Disney should be able to turn a profit.
But prior to the release of the new film, the George Lucas-created franchise had an untouchable mystique about it that now is in question since Avatar will likely hold onto its all-time box office title (and Cameron has plans for more to come).
Here are a few indications that it could be all downhill from here for subsequent Star Wars box office performance.
Firstly, it’s a fast burn.
The daily averages per Box Office Mojo are falling by about $10 million per week. That means the likelihood of Star Wars: The Force Awakens getting a 238-day run (as Avatar did) are slim. Cameron’s beast ate the elephant one bite at a time, while Disney tried to shovel it all in during the first few weeks, so to speak. This is unlikely to change with Rogue One: A Star Wars Story and Star Wars Episode VIII.
Secondly, no movie after The Force Awakens will perform as well as it did, if history is any guide.
One need only look at the numbers for both the original trilogy and the prequel trilogy to affirm this.
The 1977 original ($775 million) beat its direct sequels in the Star Wars box office race, and there was a consistent decline from The Empire Strikes Back (around $538 million) to Return of the Jedi ($475 million).
The numbers were good in one sense — that the first trilogy was able to maintain most of its audience while turning them into die-hard fans that would follow Lucas down the rabbit hole of prequels a decade later. On the other hand, it clearly was unable to keep everyone. In other words, interest waned from the beginning of the series to the end.
The same is true when you examine the prequels.
Episode I: The Phantom Menace grossed more than $1 billion worldwide before dipping to $649 million for Episode II and $848 million for Episode III.
While the films have always managed to make new fans and keep most of their old ones around, that’s been helped by long layoffs between entries. Disney now plans to break that tradition and churn out a Star Wars film every year. While that should make many existing and newly minted fans excited on the upside, it’s a difficult pace to sustain.
But what do you think, readers?
Have audiences seen the best Star Wars box office performance they are going to, or is the best yet to come? Sound off in the comments section.
[Image via Star Wars: The Force Awakens trailer]