J.J. Abrams’ Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker easily won its opening weekend at the box office, grossing an estimated $175.5 million over the three day period. (A three day period that includes Thursday night and is only estimated for Sunday. That’s, by all calculations, massive. In fact, it’s the third-largest December opening of all-time.
However, the two December openings it falls behind just happen to be the two films it’s a sequel to, the previous two Star Wars saga films. The Force Awakens grossed $248 million on its opening weekend and The Last Jedi grossed $220 million on its opening weekend. Though Disney conservatively estimated The Rise of Skywalker would come in around $165 million, sites like Box Office Mojo thought that was too low and predicted something closer to $200 million. So it certainly underperformed.
The other issue is of that $176 or so million, $90 million of it was all on the first day (Thursday night screenings and Friday). That’s over 50 per cent of the gross, which could suggest word of mouth or mixed reviews kept people away who hadn’t prepurchased advanced tickets. (For comparison, Force Awakens grossed $119 million of its $248 million on day one, and Last Jedi grossed $105 of its $220 million on day one. Both are close to 50 per cent, but not quite.)
Now, you might think, “Oh, it’s the third film of the series, obviously that’s going to make less.” However, that’s not necessarily the case. With the Prequel Trilogy, Revenge of the Sith had the biggest opening weekend of the trilogy, by far, grossing $108 million on its opening weekend versus $64 million for The Phantom Menace and $80 million for Attack of the Clones. (If those numbers seem a little off it’s because the films actually opened on Thursday. If you factor in the opening days, the Thursday-Monday grosses are Menace $82 million, Clones $109 million and Sith $157 million. So the pattern stands. The original trilogy is harder to compare because of platform openings.)
In the end, though, this is splitting hairs. Mere details that are only magnified because it’s Star Wars. Fans will continue to head out over the holidays and even if The Rise of Skywalker doesn’t gross quite what the last two saga films did, it’s still a hit.
And at least it wasn’t Cats, which only grossed $6.5 million over the same period. Box Office Mojo says it now ranks “in the top twenty among worst openings all-time for a film playing in over 3,000 location.” Yikes.