Last night tickets for J.J. Abrams' Star Wars: The Force Awakens went on sale, and the onslaught of fandom promptly brought down nearly every ticketing website in existence — but that wasn't enough to stop the movie from breaking some serious sales records. In a statement, Fandango announced that it saw its website traffic surge to seven times its normal peak levels (that would explain the downtime), with The Force Awakens ultimately pulling in eight times the ticket sales as Fandango's previous first-day pre-sales record holder.
As a point of comparison, the record was set back in 2012 when tickets for the first Hunger Games went on sale. That movie went on to rake in over $152.5 million in its domestic opening weekend, but with many Force Awakens screenings already sold out throughout the weekend (and more showtimes being added) that number starts looking pretty small. The number that Disney no doubt wants to beat is the $208.8 million that Jurassic World raked in during its opening weekend this year, and judging from the early interest, that record looks like it's easily in sight.
IMAX is looking like the clear winner
AMC Theaters saw its previous single-day sales record shattered more than 10 times over, with the chain selling out over 1,000 shows in just 12 hours, with IMAX the clear winner: according to AMC, 38 percent of its ticket sales gross came from IMAX screenings. In fact, according to IMAX itself the movie has broken "every IMAX record," generating $6.5 million in sales across 390 screens in the US. (Rounding things out, MovieTickets.com also had its biggest first day of sales in the service's history, with 95 percent of the tickets sold in the last 24 hours going towards Star Wars — even though the movie hasn't even been on sale yet for a full day.)
Pre-sale numbers like this are certainly fascinating, but they're not necessarily a reflection of long-term box office performance. What they do indicate is pent-up demand, and in the case of Star Wars it's largely been due to a carefully crafted and orchestrated promotional and release strategy that has let longtime fans feel that the film is speaking to them (versus that cognitive dissonance that seemed to take place with the prequels), while also giving away very little about the movie itself. It's been a mix of exuberant hype and secrecy that is paying off, and while movies usually have to worry about box-office drop off in the second week, the way this movie is going, it won't be surprising to see screenings sold out in advance weeks after the film opens.
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