When the official box office numbers came through yesterday, they confirmed that Avengers: Infinity War had set a new opening weekend record with $257.6 million, besting the $247.9 million record set by Star Wars: The Force Awakens in December 2015. Last night, LucasFilm president Kathleen Kennedy continued a storied tradition that spans more than 40 years, sending out a quaint congratulatory message to Marvel Studios through the official Star Wars Twitter page. The artwork replicates not only a key moment from The Force Awakens, but also signals a passing of the baton, so to speak, from one massive franchise to another.
As per tradition, the message came through a custom poster, of sorts, showcasing presumably the wrapped hand of Rey (Daisy Ridley), handing off a lightsaber to the armored hand of Iron Man (Robert Downey Jr.). The image is a nod to the final scene of Star Wars: The Force Awakens, where Rey holds out the lightsaber she was given to Luke Skykwalker (Mark Hamill) on the hidden planet of Ahch-To. In this context, the lightsaber represents the all time opening weekend box office record, which is being passed from Star Wars: The Force Awakens to Avengers: Infinity War. Here's what Kathleen Kennedy had to say in her brief statement.
"From a Galaxy far, far away... to Earth's Mightiest Heroes Congratulations on the biggest opening weekend in history! From Kathy and everyone at LucasFilm!"
The Star Wars franchise as a whole is at the heart of this endearing tradition, since it started when the very first Star Wars movie, A New Hope, surpassed Jaws as the highest-grossing movie of all time. After Star Wars broke the record, Jaws director Steven Spielberg took out a full-page ad in Variety, congratulating his old film school pal George Lucas (they both graduated from USC together) with a heartfelt message accompanied with an amusing illustration of R2-D2 catching the massive Jaws shark with a simple fishing pole.
The tradition continued a few years later with Lucas sending Spielberg a congratulatory message when E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial beat A New Hope, which featured a number of Star Wars characters holding a party for E.T. Then in 1997, when the special edition of Lucas' A New Hope surpassed E.T., Spielberg sent another poster to Lucas, featuring E.T. placing a crown on R2-D2's dome. But just a year later, Lucas commissioned a new poster to congratulate James Cameron for his blockbuster Titanic beating A New Hope, featuring several iconic Star Wars characters tumbling overboard as the ship goes down, while Han Solo and Leia even re-create the iconic Titanic moment at the bow of the ship between Leonardo DiCaprio's Jack Dawson and Kate Winslet's Rose Dewitt Butaker.
The tradition seemingly died as Titanic held on to the all-time record for several years, followed by Cameron's Avatar, but the tradition was renewed by Marvel Studios' Kevin Feige in 2015, who sent out a hilarious poster when Jurassic World took in $208.8 million on its opening weekend, besting the three-year record set by The Avengers ($207.4 million). That poster featured Chris Pratt's Owen Grady riding atop a T-Rex, which mysteriously holds Thor's hammer Mjolnir, while a number of the Avengers look on. Later that year, Universal congratulated Star Wars: The Force Awakens for breaking its record, with a poster featuring a dinosaur placing a gold medal around the "neck" of the beloved ball droid BB-8. Take a look at the new poster, courtesy of Star Wars Twitter, along with some of the other congratulatory messages that filmmakers and studios have sent after their box office records were broken, and another poster from a fan that pokes some fun at Avengers: Infinity War, which you won't fully understand if you haven't seen the movie yet.
For reference, these are some congratulatory images from the past.— Rafi Ihsan (@Rafihsan) May 1, 2018
(Credits to reddit user /u/raindog2)
1. JAWS to Star Wars - 1977 pic.twitter.com/3HSVYTvBhY
2. Star Wars to E.T - 1980 pic.twitter.com/SDEemmLDF6— Rafi Ihsan (@Rafihsan) May 1, 2018
E.T to Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back - 1980— Rafi Ihsan (@Rafihsan) May 1, 2018
Spielberg once again congratulating George for beating E.T's record in the same year. pic.twitter.com/pHtvhif000
Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back to Titanic - 1997— Rafi Ihsan (@Rafihsan) May 1, 2018
James Cameron has joined the game. pic.twitter.com/dV64HFnzaU
The Avengers to Jurassic World - 2015— Rafi Ihsan (@Rafihsan) May 1, 2018
Skipping a few years, JW ( $208.8) managed to best Avengers ($207.4) on US domestic opening weekend screening. pic.twitter.com/kU4v2rG2Av
Jurassic World to Star Wars: The Force Awakens - 2015— Rafi Ihsan (@Rafihsan) May 1, 2018
Star Wars: TFA ($248.0) managed to beat JW on the same year. pic.twitter.com/Dh3g1xdPdN