In the world of fandom, science fiction and fantasy are represented by two separate yet equally important groups: Star Wars and a galaxy far, far away and the wizarding world of Harry Potter. Fans love their stories. But even though many want to grow up to be a Jedi like their father before them, while attending wizarding schools like their mother did, as franchises they are often pitted against each other. Such is the case this week, as the Star Wars box office numbers have officially beaten Harry Potter in terms of worldwide sales.
The Last Jedi may be the most controversial of the Star Wars films to date, but that doesn't mean the box office haul as been shabby. The sustained run over the holidays meant that the movie hit the $1 billion mark with hours to go before the end of the year, narrowly squeaking out the Top Box Office Grosses of 2017 spot from Beauty and the Beast in a photo finish. (Ironically, Beauty and the Beast stars Emma Watson, of Harry Potter fame.)
With another week ending, it was announced that continuing ticket sales for Star Wars have now put the franchise higher in Box Office Sales than Harry Potter. That's in total sales, mind you, including all nine of the Star Wars films (yes, even The Clone Wars), versus all nine of the Potter films (yes, even Fantastic Beasts).
According to StarWarsNews.net (crunching BoxOfficeMojo's numbers), Star Wars' nine films have taken in $8.55 billion globally. (That's £6.32 billion in the UK, or 1.78 billion Galleons), to Harry Potter's nine films, which have taken in $8.53 billion. (That's £6.30 billion in the UK, or 1.77 billion Galleons.)
The real test will come this year, when Star Wars moves away from the holiday berth they've dominated since 2015. Solo: A Star Wars Story was supposed to herald a return to the old format, when Star Wars was *the* Memorial Day tent pole franchise of the early '80s and then again in the early '00s. But with Star Wars: Episode IX now moved back to December of 2019, due to the director switch, Solo is left as an outlier, in a completely different release location than the rest of it's movie brothers.
That's not even taking into consideration the bad press the movie has gotten since filming came crashing to a halt in June, when the original directors Phil Lord and Chris Miller were fired. Ron Howard was quickly brought aboard, and has since reportedly shot or reshot ~80% of the film. Despite the goodwill audiences have towards Howard, and the assurances that (unlike Rogue One) longtime composer John Williams would do the theme song, there's still a lot of doubt over the movie's prospects. The short time frame between films is also a factor. With The Last Jedi hoovering up everyone's money in December and January, are fans really going to be willing to shell out again in five month's time?
Even if Solo falls short, that doesn't mean that Fantastic Beasts will automatically take back the lead for the Potter crowd. The first movie was a hit, but not a box office smash on par with the return of Star Wars: the Force Awakens. In fact, the bait and switch nature of the plot, telling fans we were about to see a movie about Newt Scamander, only to reveal it was really the beginning of a five part series about the showdown between Grindelwald and Dumbledore left many critics feeling like they were unable to judge the movie on it's own merits.
Add to that the continuing fan outcry over the casting of Johnny Depp, and the tone deaf responses defending the decision to stick with him, and Fantastic Beasts: The Crime of Grindelwald is going to have it's own hump to get over when it arrives in November, even if it doesn't have a Star Wars coming a month later to shut things down.
For the rest of us, we'll keep our lightsabers close at hand, and our wands in our back pockets. May the Force be with you, and remember to turn on the light.