Data Awakens

Looking back at The Star Wars franchise and the road to Episode VII the Force Awakens

Five Minutes Thirty Seconds

 Star Wars VII: The Force Awakens is officially the biggest movie release of all time.  let’s look back at how this film has had a monumental impact financially and culturally even before it’s release. Over the past year, five minutes and thirty seconds of footage have been released to the public so far, though trailers, clips, tv spots and teasers (see Eleven-Thirty Eight for more analysis). That five and a half minutes accounts for just 4% of the unreleased film’s total two hours and sixteen minutes. The first of this footage was released more than a year ago as a teaser. This was the start of the hype train that never seemed to stop.
Star Wars: The Force Awakens
Star Wars Trailer
Star Wars Full Movie
More so than any other announcement or interview the trailers have been far and away the main engine driving interest over the past year. Outside of polling the public, search trends for trailers leading up to a film’s release can be one of the best predictors of that movie’s success in the box office. “Trailer-related search trends four weeks out from a movie release provide strong predictive power for opening weekend box office revenue.” says a Google study from 2012. The study goes on to say, "Trailer search volume on Google, coupled with both the franchise status of the movie and seasonality can predict opening weekend box office revenue with 94% accuracy.”

It is hard to track the first point at which people started searching for the term “The Force Awakens,” since way back in 2012, someone managed to guess the title of the film in an online forum. You can read more about that here.

The most interesting finding from the  chart above is that following the release of the official trailer, YouTube search interest surged. However, as we approached the the final weeks leading up to opening weekend searches for trailers had decreased while, conversely, search interest for  "Star Wars Full Movie" had increased significantly as frugal fans  looked for ways to rewatch the previous six films.

First Teaser 

There's been an awakening. Have you felt it?
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Second Teaser

Chewie, we're home.
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Comic-Con Reel

Everything's changed, but nothing's changed.
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Official Trailer

The Force, it's calling to you.  Just let it in.
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Jedi v. Dinosaurs

*The Jedi have won.  Episode VII is the largest  opening weekend ever.

Star Wars VII was able to overtake the previous record holders for the highest grossing North American opening weekend.Jurassic World held the throne with an opening weekend of $208.8 Million this summer, beating out the previous record holder, The Avengers.  However, with more than $247 Million in the first weekend Star Wars  VII: The Force Awakens easily  beat Jurassic World. This is an especially significant achievement considering  Jurassic World came out in the summer and summer films tend to have stronger weekend ticket sales.
Top 20 Grossing Opening Weekends  (Not Adjusted for Inflation)
The previous Star Wars movies were no lightweights when it comes to opening weekends either. While the initial release of Star Wars was less than stellar, only opening in a handful of theaters, the following weekend saw a three times increase in ticket sales. Once it gained popularity it went on to generate more than $100 million by its twelfth week in theaters. While the Empire Strikes Back had a successful release, it was Return of the Jedi that was a stand out success in its first weekend. The more than $30 Million it’s first weekend (more than $140 million in 2015 dollars) shows that the Star Wars franchise was a monumental success.

Gross Revenue  Weekend-to -Weekend (Adjusted for Inflation)

Episode IV: A New Hope
Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back
Episode VI: Return of the Jedi
Episode I: The Phantom Menace
Episode II: Attack of the Clones
Episode III: Revenge of the Sith
Hover over or click on the colored bars to hide and show data in the chart
Of course the prequel films went on to be wildly successful as well with The Phantom Menace doing $64 Million its opening weekend, Attack of the Clones getting $80 Million; and Revenge of the Sith getting $108 Million. Revenge of the Sith is (until tomorrow) the largest opening weekend of any of the films in terms of pure dollars, but Return of the Jedi must have been one busy weekend back in 1983.

Keep in mind that this is just looking at opening weekends. Star Wars IV: A New Hope is still the top grossing film of all time when adjusted for inflation.  Time will tell if The Force Awakens is able to surpass its origins.


Theaters opening weekend

$100+ Million

In advanced ticket sales

As mentioned before December openings are tricky compared to the summer, and the rest of the year, since weekdays are more accessible to movie goers while they are on their winter holiday break. Because of this, the weekend multiplier (ticket sales on the weekend v. on weekdays) for The Force Awakens will likely be much lower than big summer blockbusters.

Keep in mind too that ticket sales are just a portion of the economic impact that the release of this movie will have. Merchandising for the film generated more than $5 billion in revenue for Disney before the film was even released. Now we look forward to the next major Star Wars release of Rogue One, the first theatrical Star Wars release outside of the main trilogies. Until then,  may the Force be with you, always!