Star Wars Is Breaking Records Because Of Its Diverse Audience
Exit surveys are indicating that Star Wars: The Force Awakens owes the many records it’s been breaking (biggest opening and fastest ever to $1 billion globally, for example) to repeat viewings and to an increasingly diverse audience.
The fact that people are seeing the film repeatedly is no surprise – I saw it twice in its first weekend, I’m seeing it again on New Year’s Eve, and I swear to God I will see it as many times as I possibly can, tracking it down into last-run theaters until there is no cinema within 50 miles of my home showing it anymore. It is just that good, and it is a desperately-needed palliative for Star Wars fans after the scourge of The Phantom Menace, Attack of the Clones, and Revenge of the Sith (the last of which wasn’t totally horrible, but still).
True story, by the way: I cried the first time I saw it, I cried the second time I saw it, and then last weekend, I was shopping in Target with my mom when I saw the trailer play on their big electronics-department display, and I started crying over the trailer in the middle of Target. Laugh away! It’s just that good.
More interesting than repeat viewings, though, is the fact that as its theater run continues, its demographics are changing. On the first weekend, Star Wars viewers were 67 percent male, but by the following weekend, viewers were 62 percent male and 38 percent female. Too, the racial demographics of the Star Wars audience are changing: The first weekend’s turnout was 63 percent white, 12 percent Hispanic, and 10 percent black; the second weekend’s turnout was 57 percent white, 15 percent Hispanic, and 11 percent black.
No doubt, this is due to the movie’s awesome female lead in the character of Rey (played by Daisy Ridley), a General Leia (Carrie Fisher) who is doing the rescuing instead of being rescued, a female villain in Captain Phasma (Game of Thrones’s Gwendoline Christie), and fantastic co-starring performances from John Boyega, Oscar Isaac, and Lupita Nyong’o. Disney distribution president Dave Hollis noted that “The speed with which records are falling is a testament to the audience broadening out. And you can’t do these kind of numbers without extraordinary repeat business.”
There’s been a long-running complaint in the sci-fi and fantasy fanbase that too many filmmakers (and authors, and fans, for that matter) are willing to put stock in exaggerated or fictional science, magic, aliens, and monsters, but weren’t willing to imagine realistic or autonomous female and racially diverse characters, and especially not as leads. Star Wars: The Force Awakens has finally put stock in diversity, and obviously, it’s paying off.