Star Wars: The Force Awakens appears to have taken the world by storm. Its meteoric rise to the all-time domestic gross record, dwarfing films like Avatar and The Avengers, seemed like nothing the moviegoing public had ever seen.
However, it may be surprising for some to discover that the film didn’t break one key domestic record, and isn’t likely to. In fact, there are 10 other films that have done it better.
Just what exactly is this cryptic record? Tickets sold.
When you break down the numbers, according to Box Office Mojo, the film has sold approximately 101.2 million tickets as of this post (January 26), and it appears to be in a rapid state of decline compared to the staggering first three weeks that it enjoyed after opening pretty much everywhere on the evening of December 17, 2015.
In fact, it’s not even the most successful film in the franchise in this regard. That honor would go to the 1977 original, which has sold more than 178 million tickets in its lifetime (counting re-releases, special editions, etc).
With an average ticket price of $8.70 (or $8.699997984 if you want to get technical), the original film would have grossed more than $1.5 billion domestically compared to the $880 million Star Wars: The Force Awakens currently boasts.
That puts Star Wars: A New Hope at the No. 2 position just behind Gone with the Wind, which pulled off an accomplishment that no film is likely to duplicate in the modern age. The Civil War drama has sold more than 202 million tickets to date, meaning that its $198.6 million domestic total would today be worth over $1.75 billion.
Other movies that have beaten Star Wars: The Force Awakens include The Sound of Music, E.T.: The Extra-Terrestrial, Titanic, The Ten Commandments, Jaws, Doctor Zhivago, The Exorcist, and Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs.
It’s possible that Star Wars: The Force Awakens could finish in the No. 5 position, taking Titanic‘s place before all is said and done. After all, it’s still commanding a No. 2 performance, so the chance for a long run is likely; but analysts are already bearish on its performance from this point forward.
Of course, this news may be disappointing for some hardcore fans, but Disney won’t lose any sleep. The House of Mouse bought Lucasfilm for $4.26 billion in 2012 (including undeveloped properties like the Indiana Jones saga).
Considering that the previous six Star Wars films had grossed around $4.3 billion in non-adjusted box office numbers alone — not counting what it earned through the years in licensing — it was a bargain in every sense of the word.
With just the first film, Disney has managed to get back close to $2 billion of its investment from Star Wars: The Force Awakens as well as another $600-$700 million in licensing revenue. With a new film planned every year through 2019, it won’t take long for the space opera to push Disney’s investment firmly into the black.
That’s a pretty good consolation prize for being unable to unseat Avatar from the Highest Grossing Film of All Time slot. It’s also a good foundation for what Disney will need to do if it hopes to create more billion-dollar grossing Star Wars films — build its foreign box office appeal.
To date, that’s the only thing keeping Star Wars: The Force Awakens from earning the honor as those numbers have been light compared to the domestic furor.
But what do you think, readers? Can Disney recreate the success of Star Wars: The Force Awakens with subsequent films? Sound off in the comments section.
[Image via Star Wars: The Force Awakens screen grab]