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Analysis: Preview and Friday Numbers Point to $225 Million Weekend

December 19th, 2015

Star Wars: The Force Awakens

With a jaw-dropping $120.5 million opening day safely in the bank, thoughts turn once more to the potential opening weekend for The Force Awakens. An all-time record seems virtually guaranteed, but how high could the film actually go this weekend? Is $250 million likely? $275 million?? Fortunately, we have enough data from previous blockbuster openings to have a reasonable idea of the answer. The signs point to something around $225 million, but the range of uncertainty is still quite high.

I’ve based this analysis on the films that earned over $10 million from Thursday preview shows. That excludes films that were released on a Wednesday or Thursday. It also, coincidentally, excludes films that opened on holiday weekends. Note that I’ve subtracted Thursday’s preview numbers from Friday’s total.

PreviewsFriday
(excl. previews)
Weekend
Jurassic World$18,500,000$64,300,000$208,806,270
Star Wars Ep. VII: The Force Awakens$57,000,000$63,500,000 
The Avengers$18,700,000$62,113,985$207,438,708
Avengers Age of Ultron The$27,600,000$56,824,532$191,271,109
Furious 7$15,800,000$51,607,340$147,163,560
The Dark Knight$18,500,000$48,665,092$158,411,483
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part 2$43,500,000$47,571,119$169,189,427
The Hunger Games$19,735,000$47,528,650$152,535,747
The Twilight Saga: New Moon$26,270,000$46,433,754$142,839,137
The Hunger Games: Catching Fire$25,000,000$45,950,136$158,074,286
The Dark Knight Rises$30,640,000$45,114,897$160,887,295
The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn, Part 1$30,250,000$41,392,526$138,122,261
The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn, Part 2$30,400,000$40,767,839$141,067,634
The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 1$17,000,000$38,139,942$121,897,634
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part 1$24,000,000$37,684,550$125,017,372
Guardians of the Galaxy$11,200,000$26,645,336$94,320,883
The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey$13,000,000$24,125,547$84,617,303

The sample size is 16 excluding Star Wars, which isn’t as large as one would like, but still should give us a reasonable idea of what to expect. When I bring out every analyst’s favorite tool, the linear regression, these numbers line up very nicely, with R2 0.96 (the closer to 1 the better). Here’s the formula:

Opening Weekend = $850,244 + 3.01 x (Friday Gross) + 0.56 x (Thursday Previews)

If we plug Star Wars’ numbers into the formula, we get a projected opening weekend of $223,871,495. And, with R2 of .96, we can be pretty sure that’s a fairly good estimate. But how good?

Let’s look at how the formula fared with the 16 previous examples:

Predicted
Weekend
Actual
Weekend
Actual vs.
Prediction
Jurassic World$204,627,356$208,806,270+2.04%
The Avengers$198,165,669$207,438,708+4.68%
Avengers Age of Ultron The$187,263,144$191,271,109+2.14%
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part 2$168,375,896$169,189,427+0.48%
The Dark Knight Rises$153,757,456$160,887,295+4.64%
The Dark Knight$157,607,413$158,411,483+0.51%
The Hunger Games: Catching Fire$153,097,738$158,074,286+3.25%
The Hunger Games$154,884,200$152,535,747-1.52%
The Twilight Saga: New Moon$155,266,326$142,839,137-8.00%
The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn, Part 2$140,549,285$141,067,634+0.37%
The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn, Part 1$142,343,599$138,122,261-2.97%
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part 1$127,677,730$125,017,372-2.08%
The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 1$125,110,892$121,897,634-2.57%
Furious 7$164,937,526$147,163,560-10.78%
The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey$80,715,076$84,617,303+4.83%
Guardians of the Galaxy$87,280,803$94,320,883+8.07%

In general, the predicted numbers line up very closely with the actuals, with most being within a few percent. I fact, I would go so far as to say that The Force Awakens will probably open within 5% of $223.9 million, or somewhere between $213,210,948 and $235,065,070. With 13 of the 16 previous films having opened within 5% of their predicted number, one could boldly predict that there’s an 80% chance it’ll fall between those numbers.

Playing with statistics is a dangerous game though. Being a little more cautious, I would note that Furious 7 fell more than 10% short of its predicted opening, and Guardians of the Galaxy exceeded its prediction by over 8%. If we use those numbers as markers, there’s about a 90% chance that Star Wars’ opening weekend will fall between $207,161,798 and $250,910,010.

Yep, there’s still a small chance that we won’t see the all-time record broken this weekend. For evidence of that, note that Star Wars did less during Friday itself than Jurassic World. I think it’s unlikely it’ll fall that far short of current expectations—perhaps a 5% chance. However, I also think it’s equally unlikely to top $250 million, based on what we’ve seen so far.

With everything taken into consideration, my bet would be on a weekend of $225 million, plus or minus $10 million.

Bruce Nash,

Filed under: Analysis, Star Wars Ep. VII: The Force Awakens, Star Wars