‘Star Wars: Rise Of Skywalker’ Lowers Lightsaber To $177M+, Still 3rd Best December Opening – Monday AM Update

star wars the rise of skywalker
Disney

Monday AM Update: Disney hasn’t reported its final figure yet, but industry estimates show a Sunday of $40.25M for Disney’s Rise of Skywalker, -15% from Sunday’s $47.5M for an opening weekend around $177.3M. While that’s a lot of popcorn and turnstile spinning for exhibition at a time of year when folks are distracted with holiday shopping and festivities, I’m hearing some in theater circles are a bit let down. Keep in mind that Disney is enforcing rental terms at 65% with a four-week engagement run, with play of the J.J. Abrams pic in the largest auditorium. If theater owners break these terms, they’ll be subjected to a 70% rental.

In the wake of Skywalker coming in at the bottom of its range, and the entire misfiring of Cats now with $6.6M for the weekend, many in distribution circles continue to believe that Rotten Tomatoes has the power to kill business, especially with Episode IX getting a 56% Rotten Tomatoes score and the feature Andrew Lloyd Webber musical an 18% Rotten. But audiences agreed with critics with Skywalker getting the lowest CinemaScore ever in the Star Wars series with a B+, and Cats a C+ and 2 stars on PostTrak. Abrams in a recent interview totally expected fans to be divided. Star Wars groupies are a finicky bunch. Meanwhile Jon Favreau continues to wow them on streaming with The Mandalorian. Bombshell‘s opening weekend looks to be $5.1M.

What does weekend 2 look like for Skywalker? Estimates are all over the place. I hear 5-day should be similar to 3-day with $177M+ Then I heard the 3-day could be around $95M. Christmas fell on the weekend for both Force Awakens and Rogue One’s second weekend giving it more of boost. Christmas fell on a Monday for Last Jedi‘s second weekend. While Force Awakens had a second weekend that was -40% with $149.2M, Rogue One fell -59% with $64M and Last Jedi was -68% with $71.5M. Weekend 2 for Skywalker has to be steeper than -46%; and if Skywalker emulates Last Jedi‘s drop then it’s looking at a $53M second weekend.

5th Update Early Sunday AM: Chart and analysis updated: According to industry estimates, Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker had a steeper Saturday than expected with $48M, -47% from Friday (plus previews)’s figure of $90.2M, which now puts the ninth-quel’s opening weekend at around $179M+, $14.7M lower than what industry sources were seeing Saturday morning. Disney is calling the weekend at $175.5M. Imax drove $18.4M of the pic’s ticket sales stateside, becoming the large format exhibitor’s third best Imax opening in December. Now before the Greek chorus of Deadline commenters smell blood, here’s what’s going on. First of all, that number is still the third best opening ever for December, and no other studio but Disney has clocked a 3-day opening weekend in the winter month north of $100M (plus the Burbank, CA studio owns the month’s top four best openings of all-time).

Disney/Lucasfilm

Second, Star Wars is opening much later in the month than Force Awakens, Rogue One and Last Jedi did, and yesterday was a crazy busy shopping day with Christmas only being three days away and that was one of the factors crimping business. Force Awakens (Dec. 18) had a week of play before Christmas served as its second weekend. There was a similar situation for Rogue One the following year, except Christmas fell on a Sunday, not a Friday like in 2015. Last Jedi had a lot of breathing room before Christmas 2017 with the holiday falling on the Monday outside its second weekend.

Another thing we need to remember is that box office forecasting isn’t a science when films are tracking north of $100M, given the small sampling. That’s why it’s so hard to predict how high these types of films will open. The easing from $193.7M to $179M is the same number in many distribution executives’ minds. Keep in mind that one major tracking service saw Rise of Skywalker as low as $170M in its pre-weekend range, while Disney predicted $160M+. Both parties are typically conservative in forecasting their event fare, hence why other B.O. sources disregarded those estimates.

What we’re watching organically this weekend are all the faithful Star Wars fans showing up Thursday and Friday, with the moderate ones yet to come. There’s a big belief by rivals that business will continue to explode for Star Wars after Dec. 25th, on its way to $600M domestic or higher. Per PostTrak, 42% of all moviegoers who saw Skywalker bought their tickets the day of.

And yes, we can’t ignore the less than platinum B+ CinemaScore exit this time around for Rise of Skywalker, which is the lowest ever for a Star Wars live-action film, meaning the want-to-see and urgency is a bit less than previous Star Wars chapters. That said it’s an impossible task to make a Star Wars finale for everyone (and heck, even George Lucas himself would probably be heavily criticized by critics and fans alike had he decided to wrap up his own saga). Lucasfilm would have been wise to have one filmmaker steer latter trilogy, no matter how many years were spaced in between sequels, so there was a clear vision start to finish. Also a cliffhanger in Last Jedi would have been a great ramp way to the finale. Just look at everything the Russo brothers did between Captain America: Civil War, Avengers: Infinity War and Endgame. Enough said, and I’m sure Lucasfilm in hindsight realizes this. Distribs like to point to the audience meter on Rotten Tomatoes, but I still believe that isn’t properly statistically calibrated. There was an assault on that meter by Disney detractors two years ago with Last Jedi (which still has a 43% Rotten audience score). RT went about fixing it, scrubbing out trolls when it was clear they hadn’t seen a particular movie. Skywalker currently has an 86% fresh audience score.

Cats
Universal

Oy, Universal/Amblin/Working Title’s CatsIt’s now down to an estimated $6.5M for the weekend in 4th place after a $2.1M Saturday that was -18% from Friday. Lionsgate/Bron’s Bombshell was also down Saturday around -4% from Friday with $1.77M putting its 6th place second weekend (first wide weekend) at $5.07M. Why are we picking on Cats more than Bombshell when these types of adult movies are apt to be found after Christmas? Bombshell has better reviews and a much better audience response, plus the movie will ride the awards season wave. Cats cost more, $80M-$90M, versus Bombshell‘s $32M net production cost, plus the feature adaptation of the Andrew Lloyd Webber musical is currently hated by the few who’ve seen it. And keep this in mind: Those who actually went out of their way in a Star Wars weekend to see Cats are the ones who wanted to see it (meaning the fans of the London/Broadway stage show).

More on why Cats failed here.

Disney

The angle of Skywalker’s marketing angled on being the finale to a 42-year-old franchise across nine films. “The elements of this movie aren’t just tied to episodes VIII and VII, but go back to the origins of the characters,” said Disney President of Marketing Asad Ayaz about the campaign, “In reaching all kinds of audiences we’re reminding them how they fell in love with the series.” Skywalker‘s one sheet collage of all the characters (which has also remained constant for Force Awakens and Last Jedi is a throwback to Roger Katel’s Empire Strikes Back operatic looking classic one sheet. In social media, digital and outdoor, Disney paid tribute to that vintage, classic Star Wars marketing vibe. Key in the poster, and of course, the first trailer was the reveal that the Emperor was making a comeback in the finale, despite many believing he was dead in 1983’s Return of the Jedi. It’s not Disney’s m.o. to spoil a lot in Star Wars promos, but bringing the Emperor into the promos stems from him being “a huge part of the story. He ties with previous villains,” says Ayaz. Hence, his laugh and voice were inserted in the trailer. Ayaz and his team had a conversation with director JJ Abrams and Lucasfilm boss Kathleen Kennedy about teasing the Emperor. “The return of the iconic villain ties all the films that preceded it,” says Ayaz.

Skywalker‘s teaser campaign kicked off at Star Wars Celebration back in April. The five-day passes for the show sold out in record time and for the first time ever, tickets were completely sold out before opening day. The teaser trailer debuted and film logo and title were revealed during the talent panel, moderated by Stephen Colbert and featuring onstage appearances by JJ Abrams, Kathy Kennedy, Anthony Daniels, Billy Dee Williams, Daisy Ridley, John Boyega, Oscar Isaac, Kelly Marie Tran, Joonas Suotamo, Naomi Ackie, BB-8, the reveal of new droid D-O and a surprise appearance from Ian McDiarmid. That teaser clocked 112M views in 24 hours to become the most viewed Star Wars teaser of all time. Talent appeared again at August’s D23 where a second teaser poster and second trailer debuted, followed by broadcast debut on Good Morning America with the trailer playing in-theater with It Chapter Two, Joker and Ad Astra.

star wars united airlcine
Getty via Disney

The promotions kickoff/partners were announced on Oct. 2, joining forces with best-in-class brands Porsche, Bose, United Airlines, General Electric, McDonalds, Samsung Mobile, General Mills, and Dannon. With United Airlines, there was a custom Star Wars plane which flew 3 Make-A-Wish families on a custom voyage to the LA world premiere.

On Oct. 4, there was a Triple Force Friday which entailed the global merchandise launch of Rise of Skywalker,Disney+’s The Mandalorian, and Fallen Order. By the way, Walmart continues to be sold out of new Star Wars toys. The product kick-off livestream was moderated by Warwick Davis and featured pic’s stars Oscar Isaac, John Boyega, Keri Russell, Kelly Marie Tran, Joonas Suotamo, Anthony Danies, Mandalorian EPs Jon Favreau and Dave Filoni, BB-8 and D-O. Licensing partners included Amazon, Hasbro, Funko, Bose, Citizen Watch, Disney Stores, Gap, Garmin, Lego, Party City, Target, Zazzle.

There was a cross-company synergy blitz beginning Dec. 11 (9-day countdown) with custom integrations across TV, digital and social on ABC, ABC-owned, ESPN, Freeform, Nat Geo, Discovery Channel, Disney XD, Disney Channel, and FX. There was also for the first-time an Amazon/Fire TV partnership, where users searched #TheRiseofSkywalker on Amazon.com or activated Alexa with “Alexa, the force will be with you always” to discover an exclusive featurette. On social, Frozen franchise star Josh Gad debuted “No Spoilers” spot. The content piece showed Gad pestering Daisy Ridley for film spoilers, with new celebrity/Star Wars-fan accomplices like Tina Fey, Tom Holland, Anna Kendrick, Salma Hayek, JJ Abrams and more.

NASA had a “Train Like a Jedi” event with Skywalker stars Naomi Ackie and Kelly Marie Tran visiting the space agency in Houston to train like an astronaut and participate in a live Q&A with astronauts on the International Space Station.

‘Skywalker’ cross promo with Fortnite Fortnite

How do you reach those young millennials? Why Fortnite, of course. Disney had the first-time Star Wars partnership with the online game with five custom Rise of Skywalker character skins, trivia contest hosted live by JJ Abrams, and exclusive film clip debuts in-game.

There was also a custom Facebook Messenger experience on Dec. 12; which repped the first-to-market execution on a global partnership featuring full takeover of the FB Messenger app with three custom AR Star Wars reaction effects and exclusive film clip debut.

Also of note, there was a Force For Change “Build My Droid” contest. The org teamed with global robotics community FIRST to give fans a chance to design a droid for the Star Wars galaxy. The program was announced Oct. 22 on GMA in a video by Mark Hamill, Ridley, Isaac, Boyega and with in-studio appearances from BB-8 and D-O. The winner, Camille Manet (France), will have her droid built and placed in an upcoming Star Wars project and she also won a trip to the world premiere.

MORE ANALYSIS COMING…

How much did Skywalker help the box office? Total gross for all films per Comscore was $244.9M, +38% from a year ago. 2019 is still behind 2018 YTD with $10.8 billion, -4.7% for the period of Jan 1.-Dec. 22.  At this point in time we were at $11.3 billion a year ago.

Studio reported estimates:

Weekend B.O. For Dec. 20-22

thumb rank pic dis scrs(cg) fri sat sun 3-day total wk
1 SW: Rise of Skywalker Dis 4,406 $90M $47.5M $38M $175.5M $175.5M 1
2 Jumanji: Next Level Sony 4,227 $7.1M $10.2M $8.7M $26.1M (-56%) $101.9M 2
3 Frozen 2 Dis 3,665 (-413) $3.3M $4.9M $4.1M $12.3M (-36%) $386.5M 5
4 Cats Uni 3,380 $2.6M $2.1M  $1.77M $6.5M $6.5M 1
5 Knives Out LG/MRC 2,535 (-878) $1.8M $1.58M $1M $6.1M (-33%) $89.5M 4
6 Bombshell LG/Bron 1,480 (+1,476) $1.8M $1.77M  $1.47M $5.1M (+1491%) $5.4M 2
7 Richard Jewell WB 2,502 $755K $1M $805K $2.56M (-45%) $9.5M 2
8 Queen & Slim Uni 1,078 (-482) $540K $730K $580K $1.85M (-48%) $36.5M 4
9 Black Christmas Uni 2,625 $550K $710K $540K $1.8M (-58%) $7.2M 2
10 Ford v. Ferrari Dis/Fox 1,433 (-1,462) $467K $710K $623K $1.8M (-56%) $102M 6

4TH UPDATE, Saturday AM: Some may say ‘Oh, it’s threequel-itis,’ but make no mistake: Who doesn’t want a $193.7 million opening in December?

That’s what Disney’s Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker is bound to post, which would be the third best for the month and the third best domestic debut for Lucasfilm since it’s been under the Disney umbrella. The pic is still clearing a bit north of where we saw it earlier Friday at $90.2M –the sixth-best opening day of all time (and yes, third best for December). While PostTrak exits remain high at 4 stars and 70% definite recommend, with parents at 5 stars and kids under 12 at 4 1/2, the CinemaScore for Episode IX is –yikes– at a B+, which is lower than Solo: A Star Wars Story‘s A-. Still the grosses seem to be beating out the audience reaction.

It’s an uphill battle to end a 42-year-old franchise, and J.J. Abrams has been tasked with the responsibility of not only ending it, but trying to bring the faithful back after some were put off by Rian Johnson’s Star Wars: The Last Jedi and the creative choices he made with the canon. While Disney has a streak of continually improving upon its sequel openings of Marvel fare, Skywalker may have seen a boost in its opening had there been a huge cliffhanger in the previous installment. Right now, industry estimates are calculating that business for Skywalker will be frontloaded, meaning Saturday will be down around 40% from Friday’s number (which included previews).

If this movie goes any higher, it’s because of walk-up business. Advance ticket sales heading into the weekend on Fandango were pacing around Last Jedi. Skywalker was massive everywhere but played best on the coasts and in the big cities. So far, Imax and PLF screens are driving a combined 25% of business.

Star Wars Rise of Skywalker
Disney

Updated PostTrak for Skywalker shows guys over 25 (43%) in attendance followed by men under 25 (24%), females 25+ (22%), and females under 25 (10%). Females overall like the movie a tad more than guys, 84%-80%, while the 25+ set like it more than the under-25 demo, 83%-78%. Caucasians are repping 56% of the crowd, Hispanics at 19%, African Americans at 10%, and Asians at 8%.

RelishMix reports that Skywalker has “an exceptional social media universe” with 670M followers, even though it’s below the 796M that Last Jedi had by opening weekend. Nonetheless, Skywalker‘s SMU is still ahead of the sci-fi genre’s 268.1M. Broken out, Skywalker‘s SMU counts 116.5M Facebook fans, 44.6M Facebook video views, 20.1M Twitter followers, 424.8M YouTube views and 63.5M Instagram followers.

“There was such insane anticipation for 2015’s Force Awakens that any sequel was going to struggle to match it, even after such a long hiatus for the series,” says RelishMix about the calming down of Skywalker‘s social media footprint. Nonetheless, the viral reposting rate of Skywalker videos is great at 30:1. While the pic’s tops stars like Daisy Ridley and Adam Driver aren’t socially activated, they’ve been on the talk-show circuit as early as November, even prior to Thanksgiving, and those clips have been out there in full on social. The average daily YouTube views for Skywalker’s clips are coming in about 42K, which is a little ahead of the 40K usual for the sci-fi genre. That daily average figure certainly peaked to 100K views during different points in the campaign, from the first trailer out of Star Wars Celebration to D23 and beyond.

The 24-hour global traffic for the first Skywalker teaser out of Star Wars Celebration on April 12 was 111M, which was 20M more than Last Jedi‘s teaser (91M on April 14, 2017) and more than double the 24-hour traffic for Star Wars: The Force Awakens teaser from Thanksgiving, November 27, 2014. Still, that number paled greatly in comparison to the first 24 hours clocked by Avengers: Endgame (289M views last December), Avengers: Infinity War (238M) and the Thanksgiving Day drop of The Lion King (224.6M views). Note these are from organic and paid views.

One Skywalker-related video that has clocked plenty of traffic (14.3M views) is a heartfelt spot from Philippines company Globe PH, one the ninth-quel’s global partners. It’s the length of a traditional trailer but features the scavenger hunt that two little kids go on to help their friend, who happens to be deaf, experience Skywalker for herself. “With millions of views over the past month, it’s a great example of the kind of materials left for the last 4-6 weeks of the campaign that have put engagement on social on full tilt,” praises RelishMix.

No shocker here, but RelishMix always noticed a divided reaction to Skywalker online, though it leaned slightly positive with many shouting out that they already bought tickets and made plans. “Especially after The Last Jedi, some fans are frustrated by the direction of the series and have plenty of discussion points to support their theories. And not to roll too far down the rabbit hole, but everyone from the cast to Disney execs are being prosecuted in the court of Star Wars public opinion,” RelishMix says.

Cats
Universal

It just keeps getting worse for Universal / Amblin / Working Title’s Cats, with business now down to $7.6M in fourth place for the weekend, well below the $15M that tracking was seeing. More injury: CinemaScore audiences pronounced the movie dead with a C+ to go along with its awfully updated PostTrak exits of 2 stars. Word is that there’s advance ticket sales for Christmas Day, but Cats isn’t looking like The Greatest Showman, which despite its slow start of $8.8M over three days and $19M over six days mushroomed to $174.3M stateside off an A CinemaScore.

The original Andrew Lloyd Webber musical since its launch 38 years ago has racked up close to $4 billion worldwide, but unfortunately for this IP, that’s a memory. Net production cost for Cats I hear is between $80M-$90M. Cats was best in the East and South, but overall business was awful. Scratch, ouch.

Cats in updated PostTrak exits has drawn females over 25 (39%), females under 25 (26%), males over 25 (23%), and males under 25 (11%). Very low grades for each quad in the low 60% range. Caucasians made up 67% of those who decided to buy tickets, followed by 10% Asian, 9% Hispanic and 9% African American.

The first trailer for Cats was dropped around San Diego Comic-Con, though the intention was to time it around the release of The Lion King (given the whole animal element) which the musical trailered on in theaters. The trailer, while widely viewed, was immediately decimated by viewers freaked out by the uncanny valley of how the cats looked. I understand in subsequent trailers that only some tweaks occurred; there wasn’t a complete 180-degree Sonic the Hedgehog surgical change made.

Heading into the weekend, Cats ironically looked fantastic on social media with a universe reach of half billion, way ahead of the usual drama/musical’s 112M total according to RelishMix. The pic’s videos have a massive viral rate of 28:1. But just because Cats is purring views doesn’t mean the reception is positive: One of the reasons why the trailer got so many clicks stemmed from the fact that people were making fun of it. Also, in regards to Cats‘ SMU, “most musicals don’t have Taylor Swift in the cast — and she makes up 56% of the Cats SMU on her own with 281M followers. She’s fully activated and supporting the pic on social,” RelishMix adds. Overall, the cast including James Corden, Rebel Wilson and Jason Derulo, reps 75% of Cats’ SMU. “Swift has been actively involved from the start, from the poster share to the behind-the-scenes look last July, and has now been very helpful in promoting the song and subsequent video, ‘Beautiful Ghosts,’ for the movie.”

RelishMix on the great gripes against Cats on social media: “Moviegoers are asking, ‘What’s the plot, please?’ Something about a wish to become something more? The question is not unique in its attitude and disdain for the look of well-known actors running around in body suits making snarky cat comedy. For non-cat lovers, too, there are plenty of jokes and disparaging discussion.  It’s also worth mentioning that there are some Broadway theater fans of Cats who aren’t necessarily liking what they’re hearing/seeing on this 2019 version for cinemas.”

Bombshell
Lionsgate

Bombshell is coming in around $5.8M in sixth place at 1,480 theaters after its exclusive play in four New York City and Los Angeles venues last weekend. Next to Cats, the pic has a lower overhead with a $32M production cost, co-financed by Bron Studios and Lionsgate — the latter who saved the project after Annapurna decided not to move forward with it. Pic’s reviews at 65% fresh are healthy enough, plus it has some awards mojo in it with two Golden Globe noms for Charlize Theron in the Best Actress Drama category and Margot Robbie in best supporting actress. Additionally, there’s four SAG noms: ensemble, Theron in actress, and Robbie and Nicole Kidman in supporting.

Expectations are high that the women vs. Fox News boss Roger Ailes pic will be just fine by the end of the two-week holiday stretch. The rollout here is reminiscent of screenwriter Charles Randolph’s previous headline dramedy The Big Short, which in 2015 went up against Star Wars: The Force Awakens. That Adam McKay-directed movie started off as an exclusive run in eight theaters for 12 days before going semi-wide in 1,585 theaters. In its first wide weekend, Dec. 25-27, Big Short made $10.5M (but that’s because Christmas fell on a Friday and business explodes thereafter), with a final domestic of $70.2M. Lionsgate sold foreign on Bombshell at AFM, plus as I understand it’s getting a distribution fee. PostTrak is a solid 4 stars with a 70% definite recommend. No CinemaScore was recorded. Females outnumbered guys 58%-42%, with 60% between 18-34 years old. Bombshell played best on the coasts, which isn’t a surprise to some rival studios given the pic’s subject matter.

A big shout-out for original films at the box office: James Mangold’s Ford v. Ferrari will have crossed the century mark at the domestic B.O. with $101.7M by Sunday.

Box Office For Dec. 20-22

thumb rank film dis. screens (chg) friday(vs. prev fri) 3-day 5-day wk
1 SW: Rise Of Skywalker Dis 4,406 $90.2M $193.7M $193.7M 1
2 Jumanji: Next Level Sony 4,227 $7.1M (-64%) $25.8M (-56%) $101.6M 2
3 Frozen 2 Dis 3,665 (-413) $3.3M (-23%) $12.6M (-34%) $386.8M 5
4 Cats Uni 3,380 $2.6M $7.6M $7.6M 1
5 Knives Out LG/MRC 2,535 (-878) $1.76M (-33%) $6.4M (-30%)  $89.8M 4
6 Bombshell LG/Bron 1,480 (+1,476) $1.83M (+1243%) $5.8M (+1833%) $6.2M 2
7 Richard Jewell WB 2,502 $755K (-51%) $2.7M (-44%) $9.6M 2
8 Queen & Slim Uni 1,078 (-482) $530K (-47%) $1.9M (-46%) $36.6M 4
9 Black Christmas Uni/Blum 2,625 $550K (-70%) $1.8M (-57%) $7.2M 2
10 Ford V Ferrari Fox/Dis 1,433 (-1,462) $462K (-60%) $1.64M (-60%) $101.7M 6

3RD UPDATE: Disney’s Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker is seeing an estimated $90M Friday per industry sources, which includes last night’s $40M. This currently puts the J.J. Abrams directed film between $190M-$195M for the weekend, which can’t be dinged especially at this time of year: It’s the third-best opening ever for December. That number is ahead of tracking’s low $170M-$175M figure, and just under the $200M that the industry was expecting. Believe me, exhibition isn’t complaining about empty multiplexes now.

Cats
Universal

New titles braving the shadows of Skywalker are Universal/Amblin/Working Title’s Cats with $8.5M-$10M in 4th place and Lionsgate’s wide break of Bombshell at 1,480 theaters which is expecting $5.5M-$7M in 5th place. Given the awards season mojo of Bombshell, I’m not really worried about the Charlize Theron-Nicole Kidman-Margot Robbie Fox News drama, but Cats concerns me. The Greatest Showman slow burn defense will be used here, and hopefully that’s the case with the pic’s Broadway and London show fans finding it through the holiday stretch. But the difference between Greatest Showman and Cats is that the latter currently has horrible exits. Greatest Showman nabbed an A CinemaScore to counter its 56% Rotten Tomatoes reviews. The few who saw Cats last night gave it 1 1/2 stars which syncs up with critics’ 19% bashing. We’ll see how CinemaScore shapes up tonight along with updated PostTrak. Too soon to say that Cats’ nine lives have run out.

Jumanji: The Next Level
‘Jumanji: The Next Level’ Sony Pictures

Holding very well with families against Skywalker is Sony’s Jumanji: The Next Level with $27M-$30M in its second weekend and No. 2 (at its lower level, a -54% decline) for a 10-day around $105M at the high-end. Disney’s Frozen 2 still strong in weekend 5 with $14.3M, -25% for a running total by Sunday of $388.5M. That’s a level that the first Frozen was at in weekend 15. Right now the sequel is pacing 102% ahead of Frozen which ended its stateside run at $400.7M.

2ND UPDATE: Disney is reporting $40 million in previews for Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker, which is still very good and the fifth highest Thursday preview of all-time after April’s Avengers: Endgame ($60M), 2015’s Star Wars: The Force Awakens ($57M) and 2017’s Star Wars: The Last Jedi ($45M) and Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2 ($43.5M). Note on the great PostTrak exits last night: Realize that those were fans and they were predisposed to like the movie. Skywalker‘s preview cash also bests that of Avengers: Infinity War ($39M) and December 2016’s Rogue One: A Star Wars Story ($29M). All in with $59M abroad, running global right now on the J.J. Abrams finale is $99M.

PREVIOUS EXCLUSIVE, updated with exit scores and Cats Thursday: The dark force from critics isn’t keeping Disney’s Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker down, with the Lucasfilm finale to the George Lucas-created saga seeing between $44M-$48M per Deadline sources tonight.

Out of the gate, Skywalker is a win for audiences with Thursday night Comscore/Screen Engine PostTrak polls showing 4 1/2 stars and a 76% definite recommend with parents and kids under 12, who showed up at 16% combined, giving the J.J. Abrams-directed finale five stars. General audiences repped 89% of the crowd.

star wars the rise of skywalker
Star Wars fans attend a Star Wars nine-movie marathon culminating with the latest chapter in the franchise, ‘Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker’, at El Capitan Theatre in Hollywood, Disney

At that box office level, Rise of Skywalker will wind up being either the third- or fourth-best preview night ever, with the current top three being last April’s Avengers: Endgame ($60M), 2015’s Star Wars: The Force Awakens ($57M) and 2017’s Star Wars: The Last Jedi ($45M)Again these figures do not come from Disney, but are from our own sources. Disney could come in lower or higher than what we’re seeing by daylight.

By the way, this anticipated level makes sense given that exhibition and Fandango were seeing advance ticket levels pacing with Last Jedi. That Rian Johnson-directed movie saw its Thursday rep 43% of its $104.6M Friday on its way to the fourth-highest opening of all time, $220M. Only seven movies have ever opened to north of $200M at the domestic B.O, all but one of them are from Disney; two of them, Force Awakens and Last Jedi, natch, debuted in December.

While tracking has Skywalker in the $170M+ range, industry sources are projecting it north of $200M over the next three days.

Of the last three Skywalker trilogy pics, the last installment here from Abrams is unfortunately the lowest among critics at 56% Rotten Tomatoes, next to Force Awakens‘ 93% certified fresh and Last Jedi‘s 91% certified fresh. Both of those pics earned A CinemasScores.

star wars the rise of skywalker
Costumed Star Wars fans smile before the first screening of ‘Star Wars: Episode IX – The Rise of Skywalker’ in Tokyo, Japan today. Shutterstock

Skywalker previews began tonight at 5 PM in 450 theaters for special fan event screenings with a further nationwide break at 6 PM. Skywalker will be in 4,406 theaters by tomorrow AM — the widest opening ever for December ahead of Last Jedi‘s 4,232 theaters. Of that count, 3,200 are 3D locations, 415 are Imax screens, 850 are Premium Large Format screens with 275 D-Box/4D locations.

In theaters like the AMC Empire on 42nd St. in New York City, Skywalker is playing throughout the night, every hour on the hour with 1 AM and 2 AM shows all the way through sunrise and into the next day. Ditto for venues in Los Angeles like the AMC Century City and Hollywood Arclight. Tickets are still available.

star wars the rise of skywalker
Star Wars fans camp out in front of the TCL Chinese Theater for the first showing of “Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker”;. Shutterstock

Thursday night’s audience was made up of 48% males over 25, 25% females over 25, 19% males under 25 and 9% females under 25. Diversity demos showed 58% Caucasian, 21% Hispanic, 8% African American and 6% Asian.

Fans are celebrating the last huzzah of the nine-title series from Japan to France to Mexico. Early China numbers through the first two days of previews are soft as expected at $3.6M, but Deadline’s international box office guru Nancy Tartaglione says sources expect a $250M overseas debut overall. Skywalker is opening day-and-date with domestic in all territories except for Vietnam (January 3) and Korea and the Philippines (January 8).

Cats
James Corden, ‘Cats’ Universal/YouTube

As far as other openers previewing Thursday night, I heard that both Universal/Working Title/Amblin’s Cats and Lionsgate/Bron’s Bombshell are under $1M give or take. Universal is reporting $550K for its 2,500 locations that showed Cats last night starting at 7 PM. The pic goes wide Friday at 3,380 venues. Why be crazy and go up against Star Wars? For both distribs it’s about teeing off heading into Christmas. If the Cats fans come out in the wake of the pic’s bashing by critics (20% Rotten), then hopefully it reaches double digits over the next three days so as to sustain a great holiday multiple. Those few who showed up last night were not impressed at all with the Tom Hooper-directed take on the famed Andrew Lloyd Webber musical, giving it 1 star on PostTrak and a 37% definite recommend. Of those parents and kids who showed up and repped 11% of the audience, parents liked it better at 3 1/2 stars and a 60% definite recommend and kids under 12 really not getting it at 1 1/2 stars. Close to half of the audience were females over 25, followed by males over 25 at 28%, females under 25 at 16% and males under 25 at 9%.

Bombshell‘s projections are between $7M-$12M. Most adults don’t come out until after Christmas for these types of pics, though the masses make an exception for Star Wars movies and don’t allow holiday activities to get in the way.

Charlize Theron and John Lithgow in 'Bombshell'
Lionsgate

Some box office comparative titles to Cats include late December 2014 Stephen Sondheim musical feature Into the Woods, which did a $1.1M previews gross on its way to a $31M opening. Universal opened the female comedy Sisters in the shadow of Force Awakens back in 2015 earning $769K and a three-day of $13.9M (pic ended its run at $87M stateside). In November of last year, The Nutcracker and the Four Realms had a preview gross of $625K with a three-day opening of $20.3M and final of $54.9M domestic.

Lionsgate officially reports that Bombshell made $335K last night while playing in approximately 1,100 theaters. The Jay Roach-directed movie about the women who took on Fox News boss Roger Ailes expands to 1,480 screens today.

This article was printed from https://deadline.com/2019/12/star-wars-rise-of-skywalker-opening-weekend-box-office-cats-bombshell-1202814594/