After the hoopla over a change-up in directors, Disney/Lucasfilm’s spinoff Solo: A Star Wars Story is finally opening, and its box office potential should not be dismissed. Right now, domestic projections over the four-day Memorial Day holiday are ranging from $135 million-$170 million, with overseas projected at $150M-$170M. On the low end, that’s a $285M worldwide start, though that figure could range as high as $340M. These are industry projections, not from Disney, which is seeing a $130M-$150M start.
Stateside, Solo is the only wide release this weekend, with showtimes kicking off Thursday at 7 PM.
Some rival domestic distribution executives are betting the under on Solo, and that’s partly due to the 71% fresh Rotten Tomatoes score and some fanboy naysay that arrived following the pic’s Super Bowl spots — in regards to the pic looking too dark, and amid grumbles over Phil Lord and Christopher Miller being fired off the project.
But in the wake of a huge Cannes Film Festival world premiere, there’s been a groundswell of buzz; not to mention, exhibitors love the movie. “I haven’t heard one bad word about Solo,” one major studio distribution boss says.
On the advanced-ticket front, Solo‘s sales in the first 24 hours on Fandango outpaced Black Panther. Once audiences actually sit in the theater for 2 hours and 15 minutes, word of mouth could push Solo well past its low estimates as the film has arguably the most relentless set of action in it since 1994’s Speed (yes, we just said that). Disney is one of the few studios that can get away with hiding a ton of content in its tentpoles’ trailers and spots, and that’s what went on here in marketing Solo. Don’t judge the movie by its trailers.
While Disney’s reboot of the Star Wars franchise via the Skywalker saga of Force Awakens and The Last Jedi yielded openings of $247.9M and $220M, respectively, Solo‘s will reside in the spinoff vicinity much like Rogue One: A Star Wars Story , which debuted to $155M and legged out to a 3.4x of $532.1M. Solo will play on Friday in 4,380-plus theaters stateside, including 3,300 3D locations, 400+ Imax screens, 600+ Premium Large Format screens and 200+ D-Box locations.
Memorial Day weekend hasn’t seen a $100M+ opening since 2014’s X-Men: Days of Future Past ($110.5M), with Disney weathering several misfires such as Alice Through the Looking Glass ($33.5M), Tomorrowland ($42.6M) and Prince of Persia ($37.8M). In recent years, many have questioned whether the four-day holiday weekend even matters anymore or whether moviegoers have abandoned it. Disney’s 2007 threequel Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End ($139.8M) still stands as the holiday’s record opener, and it would come as no surprise if Solo beats that figure.
Overseas, all markets are opening save Japan, meaning China is in the launch suite. But one thing is certain: no one expects Solo to overperform there. We’ve heard estimates for what’s locally titled Ranger Solo running from $10M-$25M. Without the legacy and nostalgia factor the series enjoys elsewhere in the world, the Star Wars franchise has had a rough time catching on in the Middle Kingdom. We understand no talent traveled to the market, although new villain Paul Bettany clearly has his fans – he recently won the Best Supporting Actor prize at the Beijing Film Festival for the indie British pic Journey’s End.
It bears noting that another mega-Disney brand, Pixar, took a while to catch on with PROC audiences, languishing until last year’s Coco finally struck a chord. Whether that was a one-off or whether the Pixar dust has truly changed minds will become clearer when The Incredibles 2 zooms into the market next month.
Solo will not have to face off with Deadpool 2 in China, but it will do so elsewhere, bearing in mind the latter’s R-rated nature doesn’t play across all quadrants like a Star Wars movie typically does. And this Star Wars satellite feels like it could pull in younger audiences who are not as familiar, or nitpicky, with the full canon. Here in the states, Deadpool 2 is forecast to have a second weekend around $56M, down 55% from a week ago.
The best comp for Solo‘s overseas play is Rogue One. That film opened in the Christmas corridor to about $178M in like-for-like markets and at today’s rates. China was overall the No. 2 market on Rogue, opening in January (outside the initial launch) to about $30M, aided by the presence of Donnie Yen and Jiang Wen in key, organic roles. Solo does not have the similar benefit. The UK led all play on Rogue, and that should also be the case with Solo.
Unlike Rogue One, Solo features several characters fans are familiar with, even if they’re played by different actors to reflect the ages of the origin story’s principals.
Each of the main cast including Alden Ehrenreich, Donald Glover, Woody Harrelson, Emilia Clarke, Thandie Newton, Bettany, Phoebe Waller-Bridge and Joonas Suatomo as well as director Ron Howard ascended the famed red carpet for an Official Selection gala screening at Cannes a week ago. That provided a planetary media opportunity, with the film well-received there. The outsized fireworks show at the party was likely visible from space. The team did press in Cannes and a few days later traveled to London.
Rogue One’s top 10 markets were the UK, China, Germany, France, Japan, Australia, Spain, Brazil, Sweden and Mexico.