4th Update Monday AM, with updated figures and analysis: Disney’s Solo: A Star Wars Story is still far below its $130M projection, even thought it’s coming in higher after a Sunday that was nearly even with Saturday with $84.7M over 3 days and $103M over four. Some rivals believe it could come in higher near $107M.
Despite Solo being the lowest start for a Disney Star Wars movie, the pic along with a solid performance by Deadpool 2 in weekend 2 of $55M over four, and Avengers: Infinity War with $21.2M helped push overall Memorial Day weekend tickets sales to $225M, the best results the marketplace has seen for the holiday since 2014 with a 24% boost over last year according to ComScore. The four day Memorial Day stretch has been largely deflated in recent years, and many believe that’s because all the business is front loaded during the month. Year to date annual ticket sales of $4.86B remain 7.6% ahead of 2017. Combined, Deadpool 2 and Infinity War pulled in $76.2M, money which Solo might have seen had the movie been released during the year-end holiday corridor where the brand has boomed for Disney over the last three movies. Returning Star Wars back to its May period has slowed down its grosses in the face of other event competition.
The Solo stateside B.O. experience is reminiscent of Justice League, another movie aimed at superfans that many optimistically predicted would open at $110M-$120M, only to see the film collapse. In fact, Solo is coming in well below Justice League‘s $93.8M 3-day, and could match that pic’s 4-day of $101.3M, even though the DC film wasn’t technically a four-day opening bolstered by a holiday Monday. Overseas is a different story between the two pics as Justice League generated 65% of its global gross outside U.S./Canada, a ratio rivals aren’t expecting on Solo.
As we already detailed in the previous update, Solo‘s weekend prospects were dragged down by a maelstrom of fan negativity toward the concept and/or behind-the-scenes problems, as well as summer tentpole and Star Wars movie over-saturation (we just had Last Jedi in December).
As Disney zooms past the $4 billion global mark this weekend, the under-performance of Solo is a high-class problem for the studio when you consider that their first three Star Wars movies grossed $4.45 billion WW. It stands to reason that the industry would be so bullish on projections for Solo. Young feature takes on the Star Wars characters are being planned by the studio, and Solo reps a barometer of how well these classic character spinoffs can do. Remember that when Marvel first launched Thor ($65.7M), Captain America ($65M) and Ant Man ($57.2M), they didn’t over-wow in their opening weekends, but continued on as franchises. With the great exit scores for Solo, perhaps it’s destined for a better future off its A- CinemaScore and 89% overall positive and four-stars on PostTrak.
“This film from the beginning of the year was identified as a movie to see; Fandango had Solo as one of the most anticipated movies of the summer along with Infinity War and Deadpool 2, so it’s surprising for the film to have not done the business as we have hoped,” said Disney distribution boss Dave Hollis this morning. “It’s disappointing when tracking is unpredictable when you get to levels like this and setting up expectations outside of where the film is landing. But, we come into a Memorial Day that’s doing a ton of business for the industry, and the last four weeks have been the biggest. It’s great for the business. Sure, Deadpool 2 jumping in front of the release and how available people turned out this weekend are factors (in Solo‘s slowdown), but with Solo we have a film that’s well received with great exits, and we have nothing in front of us for two weekends. We’ll measure the success of Solo at its finish.”
You often hear about lines around the block for a Star Wars movie and the over-filling of multiplexes, but anecdotally we’re hearing about low turnouts at certain showtimes. One small Delaware exhibitor wrote Deadline over the weekend, “We never got close to selling out our big houses or our little houses on Solo. The poor spacing of the tentpoles just adds to it under performing. The moviegoer is on a budget: They just spent money to go to Avengers than two weeks later Deadpool 2 now a week later a lot of moviegoers are out of money by the time Solo comes out.”
At any point in time during the production and perfecting of these franchise tentpoles, a film’s edit is never perfect. Reshoots and rewrites are common to get the movies to an ideal, and Disney/Lucasfilm were legitimately trying to protect and launch a great spinoff here. Distribution executives will claim that the change-up in directors didn’t weigh on moviegoers’ minds, but the broadcast of such politics in a social media era only sends a message to consumers that a film is in trouble. This seeps into critics’ psyches, then plays its way into the Rotten Tomatoes score, moviegoers go off that number; it’s a vicious trend. Witness how Force Awakens and Last Jedi went off without a hitch sans bad news from the set. When it took its first step with spinoffs, Disney was able to keep a lid on Rogue One‘s problems. Unlike the transition from Phil Lord/Christopher Miller to Ron Howard, Rogue One‘s Tony Gilroy stepping in to handle post-production wasn’t communicated as a complete divorce with the film’s director Gareth Edwards, who maintained his directorial credit on the film. This weekend is an indicator that such noise can prevent business from coming into the theater.
Numbers speak for themselves, and we can’t rob Solo from being director Ron Howard’s best opening of his career (ahead of The Da Vinci Code‘s $77M debut), and hopefully one of seven Memorial day releases to open to $100M+. Disney has recently played the Memorial Day recently to some horrible results with Alice Through the Looking Glass ($33.5M), Tomorrowland ($42.6M) and Prince of Persia ($37.8M), so Solo marks an uptick for the studio for this holiday, even though it’s well below the $130M low-end projection.
Paramount’s Book Club continues to play strong to the older demos after a solid mid-week and four-day take of $12.5M. By the end of tomorrow, the Diane Keaton-Jane Fonda-Candice Bergen-Mary Steenburgen movie will see $34.7M, running 44% ahead of where Warner Bros.’ Going in Style was; that moving ending its domestic run at $45M. Also, A Quiet Place eight weeks after its opening is still hanging around in the top 10 with the SXSW world premiere racking up $180.7M.
Magnolia and Participant Media’s RBG is playing quite strong for a doc, still hanging in the top 10 with $1.55M. Last year Magnolia took I Am Not Your Negro to $7.1M. In its fourth week, RBG is wider than that documentary and pacing 30% ahead of that title. RBG follows the life of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg.
Warner Bros. 50th anniversary re-release of 2001: A Space Odyssey continues to be exceptional with a $118.4K four-day, $30K per theater in its second weekend taking its tally to $440,2K. WB will be adding 70MM prints over the next few weeks in over 21 markets and 30 locations including San Diego, Boston, DC, Miami, Hartford and more.
2nd UPDATE SATURDAY AM: It’s truly a bittersweet Memorial Day weekend at the box office.
While Disney’s Solo: A Star Wars Story is coming in $15.8M shy of its low-end $130M forecast with an estimated 4-day figure of $114.2M, the overall holiday stretch is booming with an estimated $231M, +27% over last year’s $181.4M, not to mention it’s the best Memorial Day weekend since 2014 when X-Men: Days of Future Past ruled with $110.5M. Solo‘s Friday, including $14.1M previews, is landing at $35.8M.
On the plus side, Solo‘s projections have improved since this morning, and in exit polls, audiences don’t loathe it in a Batman v. Superman kind of way, giving the Star Wars spinoff an 89% overall positive on ComScore/Screen Engine’s PostTrak and an A- CinemaScore. That’s the first A- for a Disney Star Wars title (which until now have all earned As), but right in line with the grades of Episodes I-III. While moviegoers are slow to arrive to Solo perhaps due to skepticism, hopefully those leaving the auditorium will preach the good word, and PostTrak shows a healthy 73% definite recommend.
Some commenters here are eager to declare Solo an all-out failure in the Justice League sense of the word, but it’s still too premature. The film could see a spike in younger audiences today and tomorrow. However, at this minute it’s a blasé start for a Disney Star Wars title considering the hope the studio had for a new franchise. Furthermore, with overseas collapsing, profit is doubtful on Solo especially when factoring in an estimated production cost well north of $300M before P&A. Unlike other event titles, recent Disney Star Wars movies aren’t driven by overseas ticket sales where foreign reps 60% or more of a title’s global B.O.
But, really, why is Solo flying so low?
Most rival distribution sources argue it’s less about the spinoff’s behind-the-scenes melodrama in its change-up of directors or the fact that Alden Ehrenreich doesn’t look like a young Harrison Ford, but rather that Disney is pumping out another Star Wars way too soon.
“They’re over-saturating the market with Star Wars, and bleeding the golden goose! We just had The Last Jedi!” yelled one distribution boss on Friday. But wait a minute, what about those Marvel movies? Avengers: Infinity War arrived two months after Black Panther. Our sources believe that the Marvel movies are disparate in their universe, and that’s why they work in close proximity to each other on the release schedule. Star Wars is a different animal whereby anticipation is ratcheted up in how far apart the movies are spread on the calendar.
Another factor in why Solo is the lowest of all Disney Star Wars titles is because it’s playing during the summer. Force Awakens, Last Jedi and Rogue One fared better because there was less tentpole competition during the year-end holiday: Those movies were the main event. Returning Star Wars back to summer puts Solo in a tentpole sandwich with other big pics around it: This weekend alone Deadpool 2 and Infinity War combined will account for $76.4M business, and that’s money that Solo can’t claim.
The irony is that if we were living immediately in a Disney-Fox merger, this entire analysis is arguably moot considering that both studios are projected to control 83% of the four-day box office with $192M from Solo, Deadpool 2, Infinity War, Black Panther, Super Troopers 2, and Isle of Dogs.
Finally, Solo arrived to the marketplace with too much baggage for a Star Wars movie. Yes, there was noise about Tony Gilroy fixing Rogue One as both a director and writer during its final phases of production, but it wasn’t as loud as what went on here with Solo. When the Super Bowl trailers dropped, already there was a jaded response from fans, and much of that comes from the whole firing of Phil Lord and Christopher Miller, Ehrenreich’s looks, the pic’s dark Blade Runner 2049 tone and, yes, frustration over Luke Skywalker getting killed off at the end of Last Jedi. Distribution executives swear that any behind-the-scenes turmoil doesn’t factor into the average consumer’s movie ticket purchasing decisions. But seriously, it’s the social media age, and negative buzz has the potential to quickly capsize a film and even cloud a critic’s judgement, witness Solo‘s 71% Rotten Tomatoes score. A wise studio marketing chief once told me around the time when Ghost in the Shell drowned in its whitewashing controversy that if you’re trying to generate solid word of mouth, a wrench thrown in doesn’t help as you’re getting to the finish line. Negative buzz can easily distract audiences from whatever message you’re hoping to convey.
Also given how precious Star Wars fans can be, casting is tricky when producing these movies about the younger lives of its legendary heroes. RelishMix in its updated social media conversation analysis reports, “Some people really do have an issue with Ehrenreich as the title character, that he doesn’t look like the original Han while Donald Glover as a younger Lando definitely fits…Convo is mixed. We have folks coming out of Thursday screenings saying, ‘The film’s great, Chewie is awesome, Lando really looks like a young Lando should, etc., while others are saying it’s a low point for the series.”
In regards to the high stakes of bringing a young Han Solo to the screen, one distribution source notes, “It’s like casting a young Clark Gable in a remake of Gone With the Wind. Han Solo is one of the most storied characters.” That said, it’s not impossible: Who doesn’t want to see Ewan McGregor return in Stephen Daldry’s young Obi-Wan Kenobi?
Industry estimates for the Memorial Day weekend of May 25-28:
UPDATED, 10:47AM: Industry estimates this morning are pegging around $33M today for Disney’s Solo: A Star Wars Story with a $80M-$90M three-day and $105M-$115M play over four days. That’s a very early read on opening figures, which do not come from Disney. We could see a different picture by tonight. We hear that exit polls showed a four-out-five stars and that there should be a promising turnout by boys tomorrow.
It’s a bittersweet result: On the plus side, it’s a bit of an uptick for a Memorial Day event film at the B.O. after the holiday has been in the doldrums for quite some time; the last big debut for the holiday was X-Men: Days of Future Past with $110M four years ago. But on the down side, it’s the lowest opening for a Disney Star Wars pic out of four — and it’s lower than the last 20th Century Fox release, 2005’s Star Wars: Revenge of the Sith ($108.4M 3-day, $158.4M Thursday-Sunday take). On a three day basis, Solo is 45% lower than what Disney/Lucasfilm’s Rogue One: A Star Wars Story cleared with a $155M opening, $71M on its opening day.
As a reference, Warner Bros.’ Justice League made $38.4M on its first day, $93.8M over three, and while it wasn’t a four-day opening, it grossed $101.3M from Friday-Monday.
20th Century Fox’s Deadpool 2 is certainly chipping away at Solo with a $12.5M Friday, $40M-$45M 3-day and $52M-$57M 4-day. On the high end that’s at $221.7M.
Disney’s own Avengers: Infinity War is looking at a $19M-$21M four-day, while Paramount’s Book Club is projected with a $10M-$12M 4-day.
UPDATE, 8:10 AM: Disney/Lucasfilm’s Solo: A Star Wars Story posted $14.1M in Thursday night previews. Disney is calling that a record for a Thursday prior to Memorial Day weekend, exceeding the $13.2M made by Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End on the Thursday prior to its holiday weekend. We already mentioned last night how Solo towers over other Memorial Day weekend previews such as The Hangover Part 2 ($10.4M), X-Men: Apocalypse ($8.2M), X-Men: Days of Future Past ($8.1M), and Fast and Furious 6 ($6.5M). At World‘s End grossed $139.8M over four-days, a Memorial Day record with $153M over five-days. Solo‘s previews rank behind Thor: Ragnarok‘s $14.5M which opened to $122.7M during the first weekend in November.
Meanwhile rivals aren’t impressed with Solo‘s Thursday night. Commenters are crying that Solo‘s preview figure is too close to Justice League‘s $13M which fell apart with a $38.4M opening day and $93.8M weekend. To get to a $140M weekend, Solo will have to do a mid-$40M start, and that may not happen with early morning projections under $115M for four-days. Critics really hated Justice League at 40% Rotten and the difference is Solo‘s RT score is higher at an OK 70% fresh. Heading into the weekend, Disney spotted $130M-$150M, not to mention Solo advance ticket sales were out of the gate in their first 24 hours, besting Black Panther, but we heard they slowed heading into this week.
Among regular ranked movies yesterday, Deadpool 2 earned an estimated $6.75M taking its one week total to $164.7M. Avengers: Infinity War grossed $1.9M for a running total of $605.1M. Paramount’s Book Club was solid with $1.87M and a $22.2M first week.
EXCLUSIVE: Very early estimates indicate that Disney’s Solo: A Star Wars Story is heading for a $13M-$15M Thursday night. These figures come from Deadline sources, not Disney.
On the high end, that’s in the vicinity of what the studio’s Marvel titles, Thor: Ragnarok ($14.5M) and Iron Man 3 ($15.6M), grossed on their preview nights. Showtimes begin at 7PM in each time zone and once the west coast hits, there’s a possibility that Solo could surge past $15M.
Thursday night for both Ragnarok and Iron Man 3, respectively, repped about 31% and 23% of their Fridays, which came in at $46.4M and $68.8M. Ragnarok turned in a three-day weekend of $122.7M, while Iron Man 3 did $174.1M, so a big swing there, with the latter launching summer during the first weekend of May five years ago.
It’s too soon to tell how Solo will leg out over four days, as there are various factors in play. But by comparison to the previous Star Wars 2016 spinoff pic Rogue One, that film turned in $29M on a December Thursday before posting a Friday of $71M, and three-day opening of $155M. Heading into the weekend, projections for the Ron Howard-directed Star Wars spinoff ranged from as low as $130M over FSSM to as high as $170M. Disney currently holds the Memorial Day opening record with 2007’s Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End ($139.4M). Solo arrives with a Rotten Tomatoes score of 69% fresh, which isn’t the lowest for a Star Wars movie (that belongs to The Phantom Menace at 55% Rotten), but it’s more a popcorn film than it is an overall critics-pleaser, so audiences could push its fortunes higher. And while Memorial Day is seen as the traditional kick-off to summer (it used to be at the box office, long ago), the weather is partly cloudy and blase here in Los Angeles, in the low 70s for the weekend (certainly not beach weather) and that could spike Solo‘s west coast sales.
Solo‘s Thursday night projection towers over other releases that launched over Memorial Day in recent years, including The Hangover Part 2 ($10.4M), X-Men: Apocalypse ($8.2M), X-Men: Days of Future Past ($8.1M), and Fast and Furious 6 ($6.5M).
Solo will play in 4,381 theaters tomorrow, including 3,300 3D locations, 400+ Imax screens, 600+ premium large format screens, and 200+ D-Box locations.
Social Media monitor RelishMix reports that the buzz online is “mixed, with fans out-shouting the naysayers for a positive skew. Fans are sure it’ll be the next great Star Wars entry – and the minority, dubious moviegoers claim this particular tale looks off the mark. On the positive side, the film is touching certain nerves among fans. A Han Solo origin story is naturally of interest to hardcore Star Wars fans, particularly one that tells the story of how the Millennium Falcon became part of Solo’s life, how he met Chewbacca, etc. But also popular in discussion is the stylish-looking Lando and the host of new and strange characters. Ron Howard, who replaced the original directing team, also has the faith of most fans.”
Solo: A Star Wars Story has a good social media universe, according to RelishMix, with 442.3M, an SMU that’s lighter then the series standards. Broken out, that’s 162.1M Facebook fans, 52.7M Facebook video views, 32.8M Twitter followers, 129.7M YouTube views, and 65M Instagram followers. The overall SMU easily exceeds a typical action fantasy film’s 194M. Solo’s viral rate of reposted videos of 18:1 is lighter than the genre’s 26:1. Some highlights: Glover’s Lando sketch earned 2.1M views on YouTube on the SNL channel. Check out Howard’s video from Cannes: