A formidable force

James Bickford

New Star Wars movie looks set to break records

James Cameron’s 18-year long reign at the top of the box office may soon come to an end.

On Monday, the latest trailer for “Star Wars: The Force Awakens” threw the Internet into a frenzy, with fans analyzing every second of film until it dries up like a canteen on the desert of Tatooine. As of this writing, the trailer has been viewed by over 34 million users on YouTube, and buzz about the latest adventure in a galaxy far far away appears to have completely taken over.

It is no secret that this film will be a success, but will it be the highest grossing film of all time? The bar is set very high, with James Cameron’s “Avatar” grossing $2,787,965,087, according to Box Office Mojo. The film that reaches closest to matching that lofty milestone is another Cameron classic, “Titanic” with $2,186,772,302.

For reference, the highest grossing “Star Wars” film is “Episode I: The Phantom Menace”, which sits as the 20th highest grossing film with $1,027,044,677.

Plainly, “The Force Awakes” has quite a large hill to climb. Some of us may recall the immense amount of hype leading into “The Phantom Menace,” but even without three poorly received movies weighing the franchise down that movie made less than half of “Titanic”’s money, never mind touching “Avatar”’s record.

So what chance does “The Force Awakens” stand, then? Well, “Force Unleashed” is being released during the most profitable year in Hollywood’s history, with three of the top five highest grossing movies of all time being released this year (“Jurassic World” at number three, “Furious 7” at number four, and “Avengers: Age of Ultron” at number five). People are going to the movies, and with the expansion of overseas markets combined with a movie-going audience that is larger than it has ever been, it seems impossible that “Force Awakens” will not at least crack the top five.

The box office was taken by storm earlier this year when “Jurassic World” came out of left field to become the third highest grossing film of all time, with pre-released interest seeming relatively low. This is fantastic news for “Star Wars” fans, as it will be a cold day in hell when a “Jurassic Park” sequel outsells a “Star Wars” sequel.

Critically, though, “The Force Awakens” is being released at the beginning of most kids winter vacations. Kids are a coveted demographic because they bring one, if not both, of their parents with them to the movies they want to see. One kid’s interest can sell three tickets, easily. And if the kid likes the film, they tend to drag their parents back to the theaters for a second go around, or even a third. For a property like “Star Wars,” of which the parents are also likely fans, it becomes even more likely that families will be seeing this film multiple times.

The only thing that could hold the film back from attaining its new record would be word of mouth. If the film is not well-liked, fans may be discouraged from going who otherwise would. This is what torpedoed “Fantastic 4” earlier this year, and in the modern age of social media word of mouth travels fast. However, that doesn’t always get in a film’s way, as the famously bad “Transformers” series continues to make astonishing amounts of money in overseas markets.

James Cameron is the most successful director in history, but if any film can beat the insane records he set with “Titanic” and “Avatar” it is “Star Wars: The Force Unleashed,” a film with the public interest behind it, being released in the most profitable year, at the beginning of the holidays. It may just be unstoppable.