• Box Office

World Box Office December 16-22, 2019

Is it possible to be disappointed with a $375 million opening weekend? For Disney, where a $10 billion year at the global box office isn’t just a fairy tale, Star Wars: Episode IX – The Rise of Skywalker’s hefty worldwide bow somehow falls below expectations. At $175.5 million domestic, including Thursday previews, their release of the ninth and currently final entry in the core Star Wars saga is the weakest of the three main Disney titles. The Force Awakens ushered in the Disney era of George Lucas’s definitive space opera with a resounding $247.9 million opening weekend in the US in December 2015 on its way to a $2.068 billion worldwide gross, the second biggest of all time. The Last Jedi followed that up with a $220 million start in 2017 and ended up earning just 63% of what TFA did in its lifetime run.

Director J.J. Abrams, who is himself a known and outspoken fan of the series, had the herculean task of bringing this worldwide phenomenon of a tale 42 years in the making to a satisfying close. The Force Awakens, which he also directed, earned positive reviews from critics and audiences but was panned for being too similar to the first Star Wars movie, A New Hope. Rian Johnson’s follow-up effort meanwhile delighted critics but alienated the movie’s fan base by going off on tangents that did little to advance the film’s plot, killing off the original trilogy’s hero Luke Skywalker.

The Rise of Skywalker seems to have distilled the errors of both of its predecessors into a film that critics, hardcore fans of the series, and general audiences are all somehow unhappy with. It’s 53% rating at Rotten Tomatoes is the lowest ever for the franchise, as is its B+ Cinemascore taken largely from the most committed Star Wars lovers who rushed in to watch it on opening weekend. The domestic opening number, just over two-thirds of what the first of the reborn series made within 2015, lends testimony to the general audience’s growing apathy towards the film and the series in general. For all the money it has made since the acquisition of Lucasfilm for $4 billion back in 2012, it’s hard not to imagine what was left on the table. Instead of building up interest and commitment to the property the way Marvel did with 10 years of effort culminating in Avengers: Endgame’s historic $2.7 billion box office run, Disney seems to have been unable to replicate the same kind of excitement for what was easily the most popular franchise in the history of cinema.

Overseas, sales for The Rise of Skywalker totaled $198 million, with the UK leading the way at $26.8 million. Germany came next with $21.85 million and France after that on $15.2 million. In China, where Star Wars movies have never been particularly strong, it took in just $22 million and finished in third place. Ip Man 4: The Finale, the latest in a popular series of martial arts films about the man popularized Wing Chun Kung Fu and was Bruce Lee’s first teacher, took the top spot with $42.5 million. Local holdover title Sheep Without a Shepard followed at $22.3 million.

Back in the US, Cats tanked with $6.5 million against an over $100 million budget and Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle added $26.1 million, reaching a global cume of $311.96 million.

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