‘Rogue One’ Box Office: ‘Star Wars’ Snags Boffo $29M Thursday – Forbes

'Rogue One: A Star Wars Story' image courtesy of Disney

‘Rogue One: A Star Wars Story’ image courtesy of Disney

And we’re… off! The official domestic debut of Rogue One: A Star Wars Story began in earnest last night with an explosive $29 million in Thursday previews. That’s not a record, but it’s right in the middle of “happy town,” especially for the month of December. It is the seventh biggest “preview” gross ever, ahead of Captain America: Civil War ($27.6m) and Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice ($27.7m) earlier this year. It sits below only three Twilight Saga sequels, The Dark Knight Rises ($30.6m), Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows part II ($43.5m) and last year’s record-smashing $56m launch for Star Wars: The Force Awakens.

So yes, this Thursday debut figure is half of what the last Star Wars movie pulled in on this pre-weekend slot last year. But before you shout “Can this franchise be saved?” this film was never intended or expected to replicate last year’s insane debut figures. That J.J. Abrams film was a “32 years in the waiting” sequel to Return of the Jedi with the original trilogy characters back in action alongside a new cast of younger heroes. It also was taken as something of a “redemption” for the less-than-beloved Prequel trilogy which ended 10 years prior.

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This Gareth Edwards film is a stand-alone/spin-off movie, with a cast of new characters in a prequel to the original Star Wars. Moreover, this one isn’t quite the Star Wars movie that Force Awakens fans are jones-ing for. Rian Johnson’s untitled Episode 8 drops next December. So, no, Rogue One was never going to explode out of the gate like that last film did, but nonetheless, we’re still talking about more than double the $13 million Thursday gross for The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey. That Peter Jackson prequel had the previous “second best of December” Thursday/midnight debut. By any rational standard, this is a big preview gross.

So where does the Felicity Jones/Diego Luna/Donnie Yen/Ben Mendelsohn/etc. movie go from here? Well, to quote another big franchise sequel with some key marketing footage that didn’t make it into the final film, isn’t that the question of the day? First, the “worst-case-scenario” is that Rogue One plays like the really frontloaded (on opening weekend, not overall) The Force Awakens and earns about 22.5% of its whole weekend take as of last night. That would put it on course for a $62 million opening Friday and a still terrific $129m debut weekend, or 53% larger than the $84m debut of The Hobbit part 1 of 3.

But the hope, because box office punditry is built on hope(!), is that Rogue One will be a comparatively leggier attraction over its opening weekend. As you may remember, The Force Awakens had a 2.08x weekend multiplier, which would have been terrible if the actual opening weekend wasn’t a record-smashing $247.9 million Fri-Sun gross. For the record, The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey earned $13m (15.5%) of its $84m debut weekend on Thursday back in 2012, while The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug earned $8.8m on Thursday (12%) towards a $73m debut weekend.

If Rogue One plays like a Hobbit prequel or at least the two that opened on a Friday (sorry, The Battle of the Five Armies), we’re looking at a debut weekend of between $193 million and $241m. I don’t think the latter is realistic, but with said $29 million Thursday, the $193m figure, well ahead of Captain America: Civil War’s $179m debut, isn’t entirely implausible. If it plays like The Dark Knight Rises or a Twilight/Harry Potter sequel (19-23%), we’re looking at a $126-$152m debut weekend.

The caveat against any upper-level guesses is that Rogue One is much more of a known entity. There are surprises, but Disney didn’t hide the film’s contents like it did with The Force Awakens. There isn’t that “Holy crap, Rey is the new Jedi hero!” or “Oh my god, they kill (spoiler)!” buzz factor this time out. This isn’t a criticism of the movie or the marketing, but what you see in the Rogue One is basically what you get. It will be interesting to see over the next month how Rogue One plays not as “at long last, another Star Wars movie” but just another Star Wars movie.

But if “just another Star Wars movie” still means a “way over $100 million” weekend then that’s a healthy thing to be. Oh, and the film is slowly opening around the world this weekend, having thus far earned $33m from 47 overseas markets compromising around 60% of the international footprint. Rogue One has $62m thus far heading into the weekend.


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