Star Wars films a bright spot


Various news outlets report that in its opening weekend, the latest installment in the Star Wars film series, “Star Wars: The Last Jedi,” drew an estimated $220 million at the box office in the second-largest opening weekend of all time, and while Star Cinemas in Hillsboro saw heavy crowds over the weekend, co-owner Phil Roberts said it came nowhere near the weekend in 2004 when “The Passion of the Christ” was released.

According to a box office report compiled by Jacob Alexander, general manager at Star Cinemas, the local theater sold a total of 1,219 tickets to “The Last Jedi” over the weekend — behind the film’s predecessor, “Star Wars: The Force Awakens,” which sold 1,902 tickets in Hillsboro on its opening weekend in 2015.

Nationally, “The Force Awakens” performed better than “The Last Jedi” as well, reportedly grossing $936 million.

In a year that has so far been “slow across the board” for the local theater, the Star Wars films have been a bright spot, Roberts told The Times-Gazette.

According to Roberts, recent Star Wars films, including “Rogue One: A Star Wars Story,” which was released in 2016 and sold 912 tickets here, have been more popular by far than other sci-fi and superhero films.

Similar features prove to be the theater’s biggest sellers, on top of Christian films and scary movies — but only if they’re not rated R, Roberts said.

More adult-oriented films that include violence, drug use and sexual content don’t sell as many tickets, Roberts said, since the theater’s audience seems to prefer more family-friendly movies.

“Christian-based movies play well,” he said, adding that churches and faith communities often attend films as a group, which racks up ticket sales.

When “The Passion of the Christ” was released, people were lined up around the building to see the biblical drama, according to Roberts, and it sold out 26 times.

Roberts said Christian films have such a track record here, production companies often send such films to Star Cinemas before they send them to other area theaters.

Roberts said another memorable weekend was when “The Twilight Saga: New Moon,” a vampire romance film, was released at the same time as “The Blind Side,” a drama telling the story of an all-star football player.

Alexander said he believes part of that weekend’s success was couples and families who came to see the films separately based on their appeal.

According to Roberts, other crowd favorites were “The Polar Express,” a 2004 holiday film; “Nanny McPhee,” a whimsical family feature released in 2005; and “American Sniper,” a 2014 biopic telling the story of United States Navy SEAL veteran Chris Kyle.

Reach David Wright at 937-402-2570, or on Twitter @DavidWrighter.

Jacob Alexander, general manager at Star Cinemas in Hillsboro, gives an inside look at one auditorium’s projector system. Alexander, general manager at Star Cinemas in Hillsboro, gives an inside look at one auditorium’s projector system. David Wright | The Times-Gazette
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