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Christmas box office: Star Wars sinks Titanic and heads for Avatar

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In just two weeks Star Wars: The Force Awakens has been an intergalactic success in Australian cinemas.

Not only has it become 2015’s highest-grossing movie – overtaking what Jurassic World earned in 10 weeks – but director J. J. Abrams’ reboot of the classic sci-fi series has become the second most successful release in box office history.

Star Wars has taken $60.9 million in just 14 days, breaking records for widest release and highest opening day, weekend and week along the way.

Even though its box office dropped 50 per cent on its opening week, Event Cinemas’ general manager for film and entertainment content, Peter Cody, estimates it has sold more than 4.5 million tickets.

Having overtaken Titanic’s $57.7 million, The Force Awakensis only behind Avatar, which took a phenomenal $115.6 million when tickets were cheaper six years ago.

While the week after Boxing Day is traditionally the biggest in Australian cinemas, the week Star Wars opened before Christmas was actually busier in cinemas despite the clash with parties and shopping.

The year-end flourish is expected to contribute to annual box office being up more than 10 per cent on the previous year’s $1.07 billion.

The key figure though will be whether the industry measure of tickets sold – admissions – has continued the sharp decline over the past five years.

While The Force Awakens dominated the big movies released on Boxing Day, there was a surprisingly strong result for the Will Ferrell-Mark Wahlberg comedy Daddy’s Home, which took $6.3 million.

Will Ferrell in Daddy’s Home. Photo: Hilary Bronwyn Gay.

The family decision over which animated movie to see went in favour of Pixar’s The Good Dinosaur ($4.5 million) over Alvin and the Chipmunks: Road Chip ($3.8 million).

Of the other Boxing Day movies, the bio-pic Joy ($3 million) was more popular in upmarket cinemas, while the women’s rights drama Suffragette ($1.1 million), reflection-on-aging drama Youth ($301,000) and French charmer The Belier Family ($282,000) all had strong cinema averages on smaller-scale releases.

From left: Luca Gelberg, Louane Emera, Francois Damiens and Karin Viard in The Belier Family.

Audiences also caught up with earlier releases The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part II ($1m to reach $28.9m), Spectre ($930,000 to reach $34.3m), Hotel Transylvania 2 ($790,000 to reach $10.7m) and the Australian hit The Dressmaker ($493,000 to reach $18.5m).

The Force Awakens’ success in Australia echoes its results internationally, where it has raced to almost $US1.3 billion.

It is already eighth on the all-time list of highest-grossing movies headed by Avatar ($US2.7 billion).

The fascinating question now is how close it can come to James Cameron’s sci-fi blockbuster, which smashed records when tickets were cheaper, there were fewer so-called premium sessions and the Chinese box office was considerably smaller six years ago.

In Australia, The Force Awakens is well ahead of Avatar’s $38.7 million after two weeks.

But with fans returning for multiple visits, the record-holder just kept running until almost the end of May.

While some cinema insiders predict The Force Awakens will crack $100 million, Event’s Peter Cody considers it too soon to suggest it will challenge Avatar.

He expects it to dominate the rest of the holidays and take at least $85 million to $90 million.

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