SUNDAY UPDATE, writethru: Disney/Lucasfilm’s Star Wars: The Rise Of Skywalker has come in below industry projections, and predecessor Star Wars: The Last Jedi, in its offshore bow. The international box office total this debut weekend is $198M in 52 material markets. That’s about 16% off The Last Jedi at today’s rates, and lower than the $250M many were seeing pre-launch. The global opening is $373.5M with plenty of lucrative holiday play ahead, and there’s little reason to believe Episode IX won’t follow in its recent predecessors’ footsteps and hit the $1B global mark down the line.
Partly responsible for the lower than anticipated numbers at open are last-minute seasonal distractions which led to softer pick-up through the weekend — particularly in Europe where the force is typically strongest. The Euro majors are still the top markets this session, however Christmas is closer to Skywalker‘s release than it was on The Force Awakens and Last Jedi, while France is in the throes of transport strikes that have wreaked havoc with travel plans this weekend. The critical scores have been rough in places, although audience reaction is better. Overall, for moviegoers who felt burned by The Last Jedi, thinking is the must-see rush-out factor will not have been as key.
And China was also a slight drag on the overall opening with just a $12.1M start (versus what many saw as a potential $20M). It’s not a big surprise that the Middle Kingdom, which does not have a built-in historical affinity for the franchise, did not warm to the latest exploits from Rey and Kylo Ren as the films have seen diminishing returns there since The Force Awakens in 2015.
As anticipated, and in keeping with Star Wars tradition, the UK was the lead market with $26.8M, followed by Germany ($21.8M), France ($15.2M), Japan ($14.6M) and Australia ($12.6M). Japan was notably strong, coming in as the 3rd best start for a Western title of 2019. And, although Latin America doesn’t typically overindex on Star Wars, Skywalker bowed ahead of Last Jedi in nearly all markets across the region including Brazil and Mexico.
Disney’s President of Theatrical Distribution Cathleen Taff tells Deadline, “The Force Awakens was a lightning in a bottle moment of pent-up demand. Comparing Skywalker to the previous films sets an incredibly high bar and is slightly unrealistic. At the end of the day, we’re looking at the total run through the holidays and think that this is a fantastic start.”
In IMAX, the global take was $35.5M from 1,455 screens in 73 markets. This is the 3rd highest IMAX worldwide opening in December and the 6th highest global opening ever for IMAX. International’s $17.1M is the 2nd best overseas IMAX opening ever in December. Skywalker also boasts the top IMAX debut ever in Japan, Germany, Sweden, Finland and Hungary.
Elsewhere, Sony’s Jumanji: The Next Level stepped it up to cross $300M worldwide and $200M overseas while Disney’s Frozen 2 has topped $700M offshore and $1.1B global to become the 4th biggest animated movie ever. Universal/Working Title’s Cats prowled into the UK only this weekend ahead of wider international rollout next session, and did not suffer the declawing it did Stateside with a solid $4.4M debut.
While Star Wars dominated the international box office, this was also a big weekend overseas for local movies. To wit: in China, Donnie Yen’s Ip Man 4: The Finale was the big winner at about $47M in the Middle Kingdom (despite the fact the film was expected to underperform and also saw a possible last-last-minute release date change), followed by Sheep Without A Shepherd which added another $24M there for a $78M cume to date. In Korea, adventure drama Ashfall, starring Lee Byung-hun, made $18.3M.
As we roll into the Christmas holiday corridor in earnest, Skywalker should continue to be the big draw, alongside some expansion for Jumanji: The Next Level and continued play of Frozen 2. Cats will swing into many offshore markets while Disney’s release of Fox’s Spies In Disguise is looking to animate the UK, Spain, France and Germany among others beginning early in the week. China also has some last-minute local titles on deck, having already passed last year’s full gross of RMB 60.7B ($8.7B) on December 13 and looking to up the ante versus 2018.
Breakdowns on this week’s films above and more have been updated below.
The final installment of George Lucas’ creation grossed $198M from 52 material offshore opening markets this session for a $373.5M global start. That’s lower than where the industry had it, and also flies in below previous installment The Last Jedi. However, there are a handful of factors at work here including a perceived skittishness on the part of folks who felt burned by the polarizing Last Jedi last time around, and who may not come out until the holidays fully take hold.
The holidays themselves are also partly to blame for the lower than expected opening, particularly as this weekend leads almost immediately into Christmas meaning last-minute preparations may have taken precedence. That’s evident to a degree in that the film did not see pickup from Friday through the weekend. Certainly in France, the country is gripped by a transport strike that has left folks scrambling to get home for the holidays.
There is still plenty of play ahead and no reason to think Skywalker won’t get to the $1B mark globally, just as its recent predecessors have. The JJ Abrams-directed title has not so hot critical scores, but audience reaction is somewhat better so far.
And of course China came in even lower than what were already low projections with $12.1M in the face of lots of local competition (Ip Man 4: The Finale, Sheep Without A Shepherd and Only Cloud Knows) and in a market that just doesn’t get the whole mythology having no historical relationship to the space saga.
Breaking down the overseas play, Skywalker was the No. 1 Western title in nearly all markets and was the 2nd or 3rd highest opening weekend of the year in several.
Across Europe, typically the strongest region for the odyssey, the flying stormtroopers amassed $122M. Highlights include No. 1 bows in all markets except the Middle East; the 2nd highest opening weekend of 2019 in UK, Germany, Austria, Denmark, Sweden and Switzerland; and the 3rd best opening weekend of 2019 in Spain, Belgium, Poland and Bulgaria.
In Latin America, Rey, Poe & Co were No. 1 in all markets for a regional total os $22M. This is not traditionally where Star Wars overindexes, but Skywalker was ahead of Last Jedi in nearly all hubs across the region including Argentina, Brazil and Mexico. It also scored the 2nd highest December opening weekend of all time in Mexico and Chile, and the 3rd best in Brazil and Peru.
In Asia Pacific, also an area with less affinity for the Resistance, the movie did $54M regionally. It was No. 1 everywhere except India and the 3rd best start of the year in Japan.
Still on deck in January are Vietnam, Philippines and Korea.
Here are the Top 10 markets to date: UK ($26.8M), Germany ($21.8M), France ($15.2M), Japan ($14.6M), Australia ($12.6M), China ($12.1M), Spain ($7.6M), Mexico ($7.4M), Brazil ($5.9M) and Italy ($5.9M).
Despite its scorched fur domestically, Universal/Working Title’s Cats didn’t get burned in its one offshore opening market. The UK came in with a No. 2 estimated $4.4M weekend, a figure that is 10% above A Star Is Born and 32% over The Greatest Showman (the latter with a big multiple, however). Much of international rollout continues next session including in Korea, Germany, Spain, France, Brazil, Australia and Mexico.
While UK exits won’t be available until Monday, we hear Cats defied reviews to some extent and that it should benefit from the Boxing Day holiday this coming week (recall that cinemas are closed in the UK on Christmas Day) as well as clear runway in the demo.
We also hear that tracking in Korea, a good market for musicals, is strong and that director Tom Hooper is visiting there tomorrow. We’ll know more about how the North American performance has affected the big screen adaptation of one of the best known stage musicals in history as rollout continues. See here for Anthony’s look at what defanged Cats domestically.
JUMANJI: THE NEXT LEVEL
Sony/Seven Bucks Productions’ sequel stepped up its gross with another $32.6M in 52 overseas markets this weekend. That takes it to two new milestones: crossing $200M internationally for $210M to date, and topping $300M worldwide with $312M so far.
Holds in Western Europe were strong on the Dwayne Johnson-starrer, at a drop of just 37% despite major competition entering the marketplace. The UK grossed $4M (-42%) in its second weekend for a local cume of $19.6M and France took in $2.4M in its third session (-41%) for market total of $13.5M. Germany generated $3.1M in its sophomore frame, down only 28%, to take its cume to $8.4M.
Other notable holds include: Belgium (-20%), Netherlands (-31%), Sweden (-40%), Spain (-32%), Portugal (-21%), Austria (-25%), Hungary (-39%), South Africa (-29%), and the Philippines (-34%).
Upcoming key markets: Italy and Australia next frame and Brazil in January.
After crossing the $1B worldwide mark last weekend, Disney’s animated sequel added another $31.6M from 48 material offshore markets this session. The overseas cume rises above $700M to hit $717.2M to date while global is now $1,103.7M. The latter gives Elsa and Anna bragging rights to being the 4th biggest animated release of all time worldwide, having passed Despicable Me 3, Toy Story 3 and Toy Story 4. This is before openings in Scandinavia, Brazil and Argentina.
Overall, the drop this session was 45% and with the holidays ahead.
The Top 5 markets to date are China ($115.1M), Korea ($89.9M), Japan ($75.7M), UK ($54M) and Germany ($43.6M).
MISC UPDATED CUMES/NOTABLE
Knives Out (LG): $6.4M intl weekend (76 markets); $96M intl cume ($185.6M global)
Last Christmas (UNI): $4.9M intl weekend (64 markets); $75.3M intl cume ($110.1M global)
The Addams Family (UNI): $2.1M intl weekend (39 markets); $96.7M intl cume, including $80.5M from UPI markets ($194.7M global)
Ford V Ferrari (DIS/FOX): $2M intl weekend (38 markets); $91M intl cume ($193M global)
Black Christmas (UNI): $1.7M intl weekend (44 markets); $6.1M intl cume ($13.4M global)
How To Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World (UNI): $500K intl weekend (Japan only); $359.5M intl cume ($530.3M global)
Downton Abbey (UNI): $300K intl weekend (24 markets); $92.9M intl cume ($189.8M global)
The Lighthouse (UNI): $200K intl weekend (8 markets); $1.2M intl cume ($11.9M global)
PREVIOUS, Friday: Disney/Lucasfilm’s Star Wars: The Rise Of Skywalker powered up its light sabers in 46 material offshore markets through Thursday, grossing $59.1M at the international box office. That includes China where the force is, unsurprisingly, not strong with this final installment. Elsewhere, Episode IX has seen launches above Star Wars: The Last Jedi in most majors. With $40M in Thursday shows domestically, the movie is already at nearly $100M global in its first two days.
So far, all openings are No. 1 outside the UAE and China. The UK leads play at $8.3M through Thursday, followed by Germany with $7.2M, France at $5.3M and Australia at $4.3M. China, which had previews on Wednesday and Thursday, made $3.6M across those, and (not included in the total above) is now at about $6M through Friday, landing at No. 4 for the day behind some local titles including Ip Man 4: The Finale which ultimately stuck to its date, as well as Sheep Without A Shepherd and Feng Xiaogang’s Only Cloud Knows.
China is not key to this franchise with each of the previous films seeing diminishing returns there, yet handily crossing $1B worldwide (save Solo: A Star Wars Story). Still, Skywalker is destined to be the lowest opening of the recent series (again, save Solo which was a May bow). It has a 7.7 on Maoyan versus 7.9 for Last Jedi and 8.2 for The Force Awakens. The film will likely see an $11M-$13M China weekend which will be a slight drag on the overall international launch. The industry had penciled in about $20M for the Middle Kingdom, so projections of a $250M offshore start may now be a bit too high (The Last Jedi opened to $235M abroad in like-for-like markets and at today’s exchange rates). We’ll know more as the Friday numbers come in and we see how the weekend play factors.
Along with officially adding China today, Skywalker is also taking the fight to Spain, Japan, South Africa, Turkey and India. Later down the line are Vietnam, Korea and the Philippines in January.
Typically the biggest markets for a Star Wars movie overseas are a mix of the UK, France, Germany, Japan and Australia. Skywalker is following a similar pattern.
We’ll have more updates through the weekend.