Adam Driver and Daisy Ridley in Walt Disney and Lucasfilm’s ‘Star Wars The Rise of Skywalker’
In a skewed way, The Rise of Skywalker has performed the opposite of The Last Jedi, with strong initial weekdays tampering off after Christmas.
Walt Disney and Lucasfilm’s Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker fell 57.8% on its third Friday, earning another $11 million to top the box office and bring its 15-day cume to $428 million. That sets the stage for a likely $37 million (-49%) weekend gross and a 17-day domestic cume of $454 million and (if the 49/51 split holds) around $920 million worldwide. That drop is larger than the 44%-48% drops for five of the Peter Jackson’s six Lord of the Rings/Hobbit flicks (Fellowship of the Ring fell 40% in weekend three) and the 39% drop for J.J. Abrams’ The Force Awakens. Abrams’ Rise of Skywalker is earning less and falling faster than its predecessors.
The Force Awakes lucked out by having its second Friday fall on Christmas and its third Friday fall on New Year’s day. Rogue One fell 58% on weekend two and The Last Jedi fell 67% on weekend two partially because their holiday breaks hadn’t quite started yet (Christmas and New Year’s fell on a Sunday in 2016 and a Monday in 2017). But business picked up after Christmas and they fell (respectively) 22% and 27% in weekend three. While Rise of Skywalker had the same advantage as Force Awakens in terms of the opening Fri-Sun leading right to the two-week holiday period, Christmas and New Year’s fell on a Wednesday as opposed to a Friday.
That’s just one reason why The Force Awakens’ $937 million domestic cume was never a realistic goal for any further Star Wars movies. Looking at the legs for Rise of Skywalker, which opened with “just” $177 million (compared to $220 million for Last Jedi and $248 million for Force Awakens), we seem to be seeing a reverse of what we saw with Last Jedi. That film didn’t benefit from the holiday until Christmas Day, which was its second Monday, which partially led to the smaller-than-hoped first Mon-Thurs frame and the massive 67% second-weekend drop. It recovered starting on Christmas Day and eventually legged it to $620 million in North America. Rise of Skywalker is reversing that performance.
The sci-fi sequel led right into the holiday period with weekday holds on par with The Force Awakens. This led to initial hopes that it would do what Star Wars threequels usually do and end up right between Force Awakens and Last Jedi. However, it leveled off after Christmas and frankly never quite recovered. Chalk it up to word of mouth, reviews, disinterest in repeat viewings, competition from Jumanji: The Next Level and Little Women or the whole “fewer people go to the movies just to go to the movies” variable, but a more advantageous holiday calendar barely helped Rise of Skywalker. And after kids go back to school on Monday, all bets are off.
Best case scenario is a domestic finish between $545 million and $565 million. The worst case scenario is around $515 million, but that will depend on how it holds up over the next few weeks. Competition is comparatively light, with Jumanji: The Next Level earning less than Welcome to the Jungle and Cats proving to be no Greatest Showman. If anything, the biggest threat to Star Wars IX is Frozen II, which is yet more evidence that Disney should have pushed the Star Wars finale to 2020. A $515-$565 million domestic and $1 billion-plus worldwide gross for Star Wars IX would have meant a lot more for Disney in 2020 than it does in 2019.