Last year, everybody knew that Star Wars: The Force Awakens was going to be the biggest movie of the year. There was no question about it. Even when Furious 7 and Jurassic World broke box office records and reached $1.5 billion worldwide, every box office prognosticator in the world knew that The Force Awakens would have no trouble topping those films. When Disney bought Lucasfilm back in 2012 and announced plans for a sequel trilogy, they knew that they were getting at least get three bona fide box office smash hits in the form of Episodes 7, 8, and 9. The real question was whether the idea of a Star Wars Cinematic Universe beyond the Skywalker bloodline would take off. Rogue One: A Star Wars Story was established in the early goings as the first of the new standalone film series, and anticipation was high (albeit much lower than for any of the actual Episodes). Disney needed this film to be a hit, and luckily for them, it is now a box office sensation.
This weekend, Rogue One opened to $155 million, which is the third best opening weekend of the year behind only Batman v Superman and Captain America: Civil War. To break it down, Gareth Edwards' Star Wars prequel/spin-off took in $71 million on Friday ($29 million from Thursday previews), $46.3 million on Saturday, and $37.5 million on Sunday. Its opening weekend is in the same ballpark as the first two Hunger Games films, as well as blockbusters like Spider-Man 3 and Furious 7 (although all of those films happened to open without 3D). Rogue One also added $135.5 million in international markets for a grand total of $290 million. That's right in line with expectations, and the general thought is that the film will play extraordinarily well over the Christmas holiday. With glowing reviews, an "A" Cinemascore from audiences, and no true competition (sorry, Passengers, but those reviews are a killer), Rogue One should do just fine.
The film did fall short of my lofty expectations for its opening weekend, which relied primarily on optics, gut instinct, and anticipation. Rogue One was commonly regarded as the most anticipated movie of the year, so to me, it only seemed right that it would end up with the biggest opening weekend as well. Thanks to a whirlwind of weather, the Christmas holiday, and mildly muted levels of hype (this wasn't quite at the same level of "I need to see this right now!" as last year's installment), that $185 million number just wasn't doable. In fact, I knew my prediction was off as soon as I left the theater. Last year, I exited my screening of The Force Awakens to see a line wrapped around the entire building, as the lobby filled up with excited audiences waiting to get their glimpse at the new generation of Star Wars. When I left on Thursday night, I found a quiet lobby and a pretty mellow atmosphere. At that point, I knew that it was going to play just like a regular blockbuster.
But in today's world, "regular blockbusters" still come close to $500 million in the US and $1 billion worldwide. Disney has absolutely no reason to fret about this movie at all- if anything, it has reinforced the strength of the Star Wars brand and the company's ability to print money for the next two decades or longer.
In other box office news, Will Smith's Collateral Beauty bombed with $7 million, the worst opening of his storied career. Manchester by the Sea broke into wide release and had another strong weekend with $4.1 million, enough to raise its total to $14 million. And most importantly, Lionsgate's La La Land expanded into 200 theaters and grossed $4 million, which was good enough for a seventh place finish on the weekend charts. On Christmas Day, La La Land will go into a much wider release before opening everywhere on January 6. See this movie.
Image Credits: Coming Soon, Joblo