When it comes to evaluating the financial performance of top movies, it isn’t about what a film grosses at the box office. The true tale is told when production budgets, P&A, talent participations and other costs collide with box office grosses and ancillary revenues from VOD to DVD and TV. To get close to that mysterious end of the equation, Deadline is repeating our Most Valuable Blockbuster tournament for 2019, using data culled by seasoned and trusted sources.
Wrapping up a 42-year-old film franchise is hard to do, and the box office results here were bittersweet. After fans griped over Rian Johnson’s disruption of the Star Wars canon with The Last Jedi, and the departure of Colin Trevorrow as director on Episode IX, Lucasfilm went back to Star Wars: The Force Awakens director J.J. Abrams to get the franchise back on the rails. Fans gave Rise of Skywalker somewhat of a cold shoulder with a B+, the lowest CinemaScore ever for a Star Wars live-action movie, and that showed in the downturn of grosses for this finale, with the $376.1 million global opening off 17% from Last Jedi‘s $450.8M and off close to 30% from Force Awakens’ $528.96M. Final domestic on Rise of Skywalker was $515.2M compared with Last Jedi‘s $620.1M and Force Awakens’ $936.6M (still the highest-grossing movie of all time at the domestic box office). On the upside, Rise of Skywalker still made more than $1 billion at the worldwide box office, ranking behind Last Jedi ($1.3B) and Force Awakens ($2.06B). Disney fired up the marketing campaign for Skywalker at Star Wars Celebration 2019 with a teaser that hinted at the big reveal for the final chapter: The Emperor was still alive after long believed dead since 1983’s Return of the Jedi. The teaser pulled in the most 24-hour global views for a Star Wars trailer at 112 million impressions.
THE BOX SCORE
Here are the costs and revenues as our experts see them:
THE BOTTOM LINE
Disney spared no expense on Rise of Skywalker, with the finale reportedly the most expensive of the latter part of the trilogy with a $275M production cost and total global costs of $627M — versus Force Awakens ($259M production, $776.5M total) and Last Jedi ($200M production, $578.3M total). This resulted in net profits of $300M for Rise of Skywalker, which were lower than spinoff Rogue One: A Star Wars Story ($319.6M) but much better than Solo: A Star Wars Story which lost close to $77M. The last two Star Wars trilogy movies from Disney actually led Deadline’s profit tournaments: Last Jedi in 2017 with $417.5M and Force Awakens in 2015 with a massive $780.11M. Regarding participations here of $75M, Disney doesn’t pay out profit percentages after cash breakeven, but rather bonuses based on box office results, and that’s spread out here among Abrams, the cast and Lucasfilm boss Kathleen Kennedy. Not accounted for here in Rise of Skywalker‘s black ink is merchandise revenue streams, which are largely kept under wraps. After Solo bombed, Disney largely stalled its spinoff feature plans for movies based on classic characters. Two new trilogies were put into development, however; Game of Thrones creators David Benioff and D.B. Weiss walked away from one of them, and there are questions whether Rian Johnson’s take is even proceeding, with the filmmaker putting his current focus on a Knives Out sequel. Three new untitled Star Wars movies remain dated on the Disney release schedule for year-end 2022, 2024 and and 2026. In the meantime, Star Wars flourishes on its streaming service with the Jon Favreau-created live-action series The Mandalorian, with several spinoff shows planned.