Distributors Confident Star Wars: The Force Awakens Could Destroy Opening Weekend Box Office Record

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(Photo: Lucasfilm)

When we reported last week that Star Wars: The Force Awakens opening number of screens, at 3,900, was surprisingly low for what's expected to be a box office behemoth, we did posit that maybe Disney would up the number at the last minute leading up to the release. Turns out, we were right, according to a new tracking report by Hollywood trade Deadline. The film will now have more than 4,100 locations at opening, giving it a December record and placing it in the top four widest openings of all time. That's more like it.

The early estimates from rival distributors have Star Wars opening to a wide range, somewhere between $185 million and $220 million. That thirty-five million dollar swing is due to the nature of the beast, and Deadline says it's akin to a $2 million range for a low-budget comedy's opening weekend. The opening weekend record was set just this year by Jurassic World with $208.8 million, so anything in the upper 30% or so of estimates will set that record for the second time in 2015.

The 4,100+ screens includes more than 3,300 3D screens, which overlaps with the 392 IMAX screens - every IMAX theater in the U.S. (a stat Disney has secured for the first four weeks, where Star Wars will continue its IMAX takeover). Add in another 451 premium large format screens (like Regal's RPX), and you have more premium ticket prices than for any movie launch in history.

For other records, theater owners are looking at as much as $500 million domestic box office in the first two weeks of the film's release, hitting that half-billion mark before the new year, and many predict it'll beat the preview night (Thursday night and Midnight-3am showings) record of $43.5 million held by Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2, a 4 and a half year record.

For a film this size, it may be surprising that Disney only spent $22 million on the TV ad budget for the movie. That's likely because synergistic ads through Disney-owned networks like ABC, ESPN, and Disney XD have greatly supplemented that without increasing the budget much.

Star Wars: The Force Awakens premieres to a large audience in Hollywood, CA Monday night, marking the first people outside the inner circle to see the film. Press screenings are held Tuesday with a Wednesday 3am EST embargo.