'Star Wars' Boosts Other Movies

Dow Jones Newswires

Call it Hollywood's Christmas miracle: A weekend on which some feared the success of "Star Wars" would smother all other releases instead resulted in an abundance of full stockings. Walt Disney's "Star Wars: The Force Awakens" led the box office with a tremendous $153.5 million, according to studio estimates. But several other movies enjoyed healthy openings in its wake, including the comedies "Daddy's Home" from Viacom's Paramount Pictures and "Joy" from 21st Century Fox's Twentieth Century Fox. Rather than stealing attention from other releases, it appears "The Force Awakens" got more people interested in going to the multiplex, or going back for a different option. "I am a big believer that what generates box office is people going to movies and 'Star Wars' has gotten a giant infusion of people into theaters," said Paramount Pictures Vice Chairman Rob Moore. Overall, U.S. and Canadian movie theaters sold $300 million of tickets, according to Rentrak, easily besting the prior Christmas record of $269 million set six years ago when the holiday also fell on a Friday and "Avatar" was on its second weekend in theaters. The seventh "Star Wars" broke record after record following its all-time high opening, including Hollywood's biggest ever Monday, Tuesday, Christmas Day, and second weekend in theaters, as well as the shortest number of days to gross more than $1 billion world-wide. "The Force Awakens" has now sold $1.09 billion of tickets globally, making the $200 million-plus production very profitable and, more important for Disney, re-establishing "Star Wars" as a major global franchise. The all-time biggest domestic gross, $749.8 million for director James Cameron's 2009 release "Avatar," is now firmly in "The Force Awakens'" sights. That movie grossed $2.79 billion globally, which remains reachable for the new "Star Wars" but still not a sure thing. Whether it hits that mark will depend on large part how the movie performs in China, where it opens on Jan. 9 -- and the science-fiction saga isn't too well-known. In most other foreign countries, however, international ticket sales remained strong this weekend, led by the U.K., Germany and Australia. Grosses remain very good, though not as tremendous, in developing markets such as Latin America and Russia. Among other releases, "Daddy's Home," a Will Ferrell-Mark Wahlberg comedy co-financed by Paramount and Red Granite Pictures, proved the strongest "Star Wars" alternative, buoyed by its status as the only family-friendly comedy. It opened to $38.8 million. "Joy," starring Jennifer Lawrence and directed by David O. Russell of "American Hustle" fame, overcame mixed reviews to start its box-office run with a healthy $17.5 million. Fox co-financed the movie, about the inventor of the Miracle Mop, with Annapurna Pictures. Sony Pictures Entertainment's Will Smith drama "Concussion," about football-related brain damage, had a decent opening of $11 million despite its somber subject matter. All of those movies are counting on the fact that many people are off work and school in the next week to power them to healthy box-office runs driven by positive word-of-mouth. The only Christmas flop was a remake of the cult action classic "Point Break." Released by Time Warner's Warner Bros. but financed by Alcon Entertainment, the $105 million production opened to a weak $10.2 million. It made its debut earlier in China, however, where it is has grossed $40 million.

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