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Whisper Numbers: Star Wars to awaken the box office

Three years after Disney bought Lucasfilm and announced a Star Wars sequel trilogy, Episode VII Star Wars: The Force Awakens [STAR7] finally arrives this weekend bringing back Luke Skywalker, Princess Leia and Han Solo. Along with all the beloved favorite characters, Director J.J. Abrams [JABRA] has assembled a cast of mostly fresh faces for the next generation of the space saga. Even though the three Star Wars prequels dominated the box office, they were a huge letdown for older fans that grew up on the original trilogy. After waiting 32 years, their pent-up demand has led to record-breaking advance ticket sales in excess of $100 million, with more than half sold for opening weekend. Jurassic World demonstrated the drawing power of nostalgia when it set a new opening weekend record of $208.8 million this past June. The December record of $84.6 million held by The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey is about to be obliterated.

The Disney marketing machine has turned The Force Awakens into a must-see event by showing only bits and pieces and building up the anticipation to a crescendo. The PG-13 rated film was finally shown publically on Monday to near universal praise. Winter weather appears to be a non-factor this weekend, so the only limitation is the theater count of 4134, a couple hundred less than other recent blockbusters. Star Wars: The Force Awakens needs to average $50,550 per theater to surpass Jurassic World, which averaged a record $48,855. The stage is set for Star Wars: The Force Awakens to blast its way to $210 million.

Alvin and the Chipmunks: Road Chip [ALVN4] targets families with preschool children that are too young for Star Wars. While the first two Chipmunks films opened in the 40-millions range, the last sequel Chipwrecked dropped to $23.2 million in 2011. Fox will have to find a new audience as children who saw the previous installments have all grown up. Parents themselves may be too busy checking out Star Wars. Alvin and the Chipmunks: Road Chip could ride out $13 million from 3653 locations.

Universal counter-programs the weekend with the R-rated comedy Sisters [TNEST] starring Tina Fey [TFEY] and Amy Poehler [APOEH]. The ex-SNL duo previously opened Baby Mama to $17.4 million, but that was PG-13 and 8 years ago. The trailers are not particularly funny, and the dumb, raunchy comedy may not appeal to Fey fans. Playing in 2961 theaters, Sisters may connect with enough women for $12 million.

With heavy competition and poor word of mouth, In the Heart of the Sea [HRTSE] is likely to tumble around 60% in its second weekend to $4.5 million.

That’s the whisper from the virtual trading floor.


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By Box Office Whisperer on Thursday, December 17, 2015 @ 03:34 PM 4363 views

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