Wednesday, January 27, 2016

World Box Office: THE FORCE AWAKENS vs. AVATAR? Forget it... Look At All That Cheddar.

As I've been postulating for weeks now (other than the fact I knew there was no way AVATAR 2 would hit its latest release date), there is no way STAR WARS: THE FORCE AWAKENS challenges James Cameron's AVATAR in worldwide box office. Let's face it, worldwide box office is the number that matters most and while the domestic record is an awesome achievement, it's only a third of what really matters or in SWTFA's case, half. Yes, TITANIC may sink, but AVATAR is quite safe.

Was there really any doubt about this? Not to me. There's the old description of a four quadrant movie that sort of fits both movies: Males under 25, Males over 25, Females under 25 and Females over 25. I think SWTFA delivers admirably on this, but not in the league of AVATAR. But of course there is much more to the story than just four quadrants.

Many will argue that shiny new 3D technology helped push AVATAR to dizzying heights and while that is true to some degree, SWTFA has nostalgia and an extremely well established fanbase and, count 'em, SIX previous feature releases. SWTFA also has 3D revenue in MORE theaters. AVATAR was an original work. That more than balances the scales.

Here's why AVATAR will remain king of the world in my opinion:
1. James Cameron. The world loves him. They love his movies and love his environmental stance. That's a huge reason why AVATAR commanded the box office it did. SWTFA must measure up to this standard of relevance or fail in my opinion. Cameron is AVATAR's scientist to SWTFA's fantasy magic. It's a very interesting comparison to contrast AVATAR's environmental message to THE FORCE AWAKENS' well... force, and while I'm sure I'll hear from more Star Wars fans on this (I am one!), AVATAR much better aligns with true Science Fiction. Star Wars embraces the supernatural, albeit in a passionate, space opera setting. Don't underestimate the power of "James Cameron Presents". Just his name alone will bring in masses of people. Abrams is good and is getting better, but he doesn't command Cameron's respect yet in the theater - and very probably never will. Cameron IS Captain SciFi. I feel the pure SciFi play is a better option for box office when we're dealing with four quadrant movies.

2. Everyone can relate to AVATAR's story. Indigenous people's oppression. The environment. Corporate greed. Romance. The world responded to it. It had legs. With SWTFA however, the story continually evolves around the soap opera of grandparents, parents, siblings and children with unexpected gasps from audiences as lineages are revealed. There needs to be more at stake and more that relates to our world directly to connect as AVATAR has. THE FORCE AWAKENS needs more meat to move to the next level. Perhaps EP. VIII or the spin offs will.

3. The AVATAR sequels will punch up cinematic technology once again and potentially set the bar even higher in the coming years. You didn't think he was done with just 3D did you? You can bet Cameron will be marketing some new technology very, very hard for the sequels. AVATAR broke amazing ground with 3D, crossing the uncanny valley with photo realism, performance capture and virtual real-time cameras. You can expect more of the same for the sequels only with technology 10 years better. Imagine what he could and will do.

So if not SWTFA, then what will overtake AVATAR? AVATAR 2? Maybe. I suspect the movies will be BETTER than the original (as Cameron always shines in sequels) and will do massive box office, but AVATAR was a must see event for the world. It will be hard to replicate that again and re-energize that urgency. That being said, if there is one person in the world that can beat James Cameron, it's James Cameron. He's already proven that. And there's plenty of causes that are of urgent priority on this planet. Mine that cheddar.

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Jim Dorey
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