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“Star Wars: The Force Awakens” soared this weekend, generating a galactic $238 million at the box office. That makes it the biggest North American debut of all time. The Walt Disney Company earnings for the film destroy the previous opening record set by Universal’s “Jurassic World,” which drew $208.8 million this summer.
So why is this franchise so popular? Here & Now‘s Jeremy Hobson discusses with The Atlantic’s Derek Thompson.
On why the franchise works commercially
“Commercially speaking, pop culture is in the business of sequels, producing fresh iterations on familiar products. And the value of those sequels is just going to continue to grow, as audiences get richer and as the global audience grows. But it says something deeper too. Critics hope that success is a reflection of quality, but the truer thing is that success in most cultural products is a reflection of familiarity. Every year there are a great many weird albums that sell nothing and brilliant movies make less than $50 million. ‘Star Wars’ made $50 million before breakfast on Friday, so the deeper reason that franchises work is that people don’t like new things as much as we think we do. What we like are old things made new again, and again, and again, and the old made new is ‘Star Wars’ in a nutshell.”
“Critics hope that success is a reflection of quality, but the truer thing is that success in most cultural products is a reflection of familiarity.”
On why “Star Wars” became a phenomenon
“’Star Wars’ and ‘Harry Potter’ are the two most successful movie franchises on a per-film basis in history, and they both hit a really similar sweet spot. Tell me which story is a saga about a boy whose parents are gone, who seems at first ordinary but is asked to learn a magical skill and go on a great adventure; makes close friends including a boy, a girl, and an old, wise adviser; and becomes a hero by killing a black-clad enemy involved in the death of his father.”
“This story arc is Joseph Campbell’s ‘Hero of a Thousand Faces.’ It’s fantasy, it’s drama, it’s aspiration, it’s relatability. It’s a fairy tale for kids that adults can adore. Lots of writers have tried to get this formula right, and I think you just have to throw up your hands and say, ‘Look, George Lucas and J.K. Rowling got it perfect.’”