Star Wars revenue is already out-of-this-world
One to file under ‘O’ for ‘Obvious’. Star Wars: The Force Awakens has taken the box office by storm and broken almost every opening weekend record in this galaxy those far, far away.
The numbers coming through literally unheard of. Screenings commenced at midnight into Thursday morning. In the United States and Canada. Europe and Australia and New Zealand, the take was some US$238 million (AU$331 million) and over $500 million worldwide. However, every industry pundit is waiting for the film to open in China on 9 January to see just how high the total might go.
In 2010, Disney paid $4.1 billion (AU$5.7 billion) for the rights to Star Wars and its properties. With an estimated budget of $200 million for Star Wars: The Force Awakens and a (relatively small) marketing budget of $30 million, Disney CEO Bob Iger would turned up to work yesterday thrilled by the fact that his move on the franchise looks a success after only four days.
The resultis just another example of the shrewd acquisition strategy Iver has brought to the company. While cinemaphiles will groan at the idea of endless franchises charging their way through theatres all through the year, Disney has secured some of the world’s most recognisable movie brands through Lucasfilm, Marvel (US$5 billion) and Pixar (US$7.1 billion).
Disney Chair and CEO, Bob Iger
In particualr, Star Wars was feeling particular pressure. There was a deep need to resurrect a franchise that was severely damaged by prequels produced by George Lucas from 1999 – 2005. Despite keeping the plot of 'Episode VII' largely a secret, the commercial success of The Force Awakens can be narrowed down to three key factors:
Episodes I, II and III (the prequels) largely lacked the much-loved characters that filled out the simple goodies-versus-baddies plot of the originals. Everyone knows Darth Vader; few know Darth Maul. For those that have grown up surrounded by the mythology of Star Wars, the prospect of seeing Luke, Han, Leia, Chewie, R2-D2 and C3PO is box-office gold in itself.
Anyone who was in the cinemas over the opening weekend would have done well to restrain from cheering at the appearance of some of the old favourites. Hell, even the trailer – with the crashed Star Destroyer half-buried in the sand – was enough to bring back sweet memories.
The rolling droid is more than just a key character. After light sabers and costumes, BB-8 leads the charge for toy sales. Merchandise is estimated to generate revenue of $5 billion across all products (think Lego, make-up and clothing) and Hasbro’s line will be a big part of this. One important strategy is the expansion of products to include those traditionally marketed to girls (Covergirl’s ‘Dark Side’ mascara being just one example), which brings us to…
It wasn’t just the dialogue that needed to be dragged kicking-and-screaming into the 21st century. Finally, we have female character at the forefront of the story. Thankfully, Rey is more than just a woman playing a male character – her personality rings true, and might be part of the reason why, in the United States over the opening weekend, 42% of Star Wars ticket sales went to women. This number could certainly grow through subsequent releases in 2017 and 2019.
In short, Disney has nailed it. There will be billions flowing into their accounts over the next 12 months. With huge Star Wars additions coming to Disney theme parks, and spin-off films filling the gaps between sequels, have no doubt the franchise is headed for hyperdrive until at least the end of the decade.