Star Wars: The Force Awakens (pictured, top) opened just before Christmas, and just before New Year became NZ’s highest-earning release for the year. The performance here in NZ mirrored behaviour overseas, where the title has broken various records, mostly set by Avatar, and was (at year’s end) a comfortable member of the US billionaires club.
The arrival of Star Wars boosted a local box office which had been slipping back over the year’s last quarter. Never in danger of earning less than in 2014, 2015’s overall lead of 8.64% against 2014 earnings had been eaten away since the first week of October. When Star Wars opened, the lead was 6.05%.
Two weeks of screening Luke and friends drove overall box office takings to leap 8.58% ahead of 2014’s. In dollar terms, the NZ box office took $184,495,251 in the 52 weeks to 30 December, against 2014’s $169,919,073. Star Wars contributed $9.15 million of the take,
If Star Wars was a predictable chart-topper, other runners didn’t finish quite as expected. The Avengers: Age of Ultron, while successful, wasn’t the earner it was predicted to be. The Marvel universe suffered some similar fortunes in its TV output during 2015. There might be some 4,000 characters within the overall catalogue, but it seems some executives are a little out of step with which ones the public has an interest in watching – in cinemas or at home.
Until Star Wars’ late run, the NZ box office for 2015 was led by a less likely franchise, the latest instalment in the Fast & Furious saga, completed with help from Weta Digital after the death of lead Paul Walker.
Not included in the 2015 releases charts (because it opened in December 2014), the final part of the Hobbit was a strong performer in the first part of the year, ending its run with a take a little over $8 million.
2015’s local releases, at least those receiving anything like a national outing, could be counted on the toes of a one-footed person.
The only local titles to pass $100,000 were 2014 release Hip Hop-eration (which topped $420,000); The Ground We Won (over $323,000): and – earning more than every other local release in 2015 combined – Born to Dance, which snuck back into cinemas at the end of the year, rounding out its total to a touch above $1,110,000.
As many noted, 2015 was a poor year for the number of NZ features seeing releases beyond festivals, although 2016 promises more.