Surprising effectively no one, Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker—the final film in the nine-part “Skywalker Saga” started by George Lucas in 1977—topped the weekend box office by a wide margin. But just how high did it go?
The Disney release took in an estimated $176 million from 4,406 locations in the final weekend before the Christmas holiday, placing it in the middle range of expectations. Rise of Skywalker now boasts the third-highest opening ever in the month of December, behind only—you guessed it—franchise predecessors The Force Awakens ($247.9 million) and The Last Jedi ($220 million). The Rise of Skywalker’s weekend total also makes it the 12th-highest opening of all time in North America, just behind Captain America: Civil War ($179.1 million) and just ahead of 2017’s Beauty and the Beast ($174.7 million).
There were a variety of factors that led to The Rise of Skywalker’s high-flying performance this weekend. Perhaps chief among them was its status as the capper to a 42-year-long series that has become one of the most beloved properties of all time (albeit one that has seen more than its fair share of ups and downs over the last couple of decades). The return of J.J. Abrams—who helmed the fan-beloved The Force Awakens—to the director’s chair also helped boost anticipation for hardcore fans after The Last Jedi, the Rian Johnson-helmed 2017 installment that became the source of scorn by many die-hards who felt the director took to many liberties with the series’ mythology.
It seems all but certain that Rise of Skywalker’s lukewarm reviews—it currently sits at 58% on Rotten Tomatoes—at least mildly dinged the film’s box office potential this weekend, perhaps keeping a certain portion of casual fans from rushing out to see it. Indeed, Rise of Skywalker is undoubtedly one of the worst-reviewed films of the entire franchise. The majority of critics apparently liked it even less than last year’s Solo: A Star Wars Story, the first and so far only film in the franchise to be a bona fide box office disappointment, debuting with $84.4 million and tallying a final domestic total of $213.7 million—less than what The Force Awakens and The Last Jedi made in their opening weekends. Unlike that film, however Rise of Skywalker is more of a must-see prospect for Star Wars fans given its status as the final installment in the main series as opposed to a spin-off.
It’s difficult to predict just how Rise of Skywalker will fare in the weeks ahead. The Force Awakens, which was well-received by both critics and fans, legged it to $936.6 million domestically—an all-time record—thanks to strong repeat business. That film is the only entry among the last three installments in the main series to achieve a consensus between critics and audiences, which, along with the long buildup to its release, helps explain its record-shattering performance. On the other end of the spectrum, The Last Jedi suffered steep declines due to poor word-of-mouth among the series’ fanbase despite being praised by critics (it ended its run with just over $620 million in North America).
The opposite dynamic is at play with The Rise of Skywalker, which despite relatively negative reviews boasts an Audience Score of 86% on Rotten Tomatoes from over 28,000 ratings to date. At least in theory, that suggests a long-term performance more in the vein of The Force Awakens—though it’s worth noting that the film also received a “B+” Cinemascore, which is a couple notches lower than both The Force Awakens and Last Jedi, which each garnered an “A” from opening-day audiences. We’ll see how this one plays out over the lucrative holiday frame.
Coming in second was last weekend’s top earner Jumanji: The Next Level, which dropped a rather steep 56% to an estimated $26.1 million in its sophomore frame. The family adventure sequel no doubt took a major hit from the presence of The Rise of Skywalker in the marketplace, but still managed to cross $100 million in its first ten days of release. The Sony title’s substantial drop this weekend is particularly notable in light of its 2017 predecessor Welcome to the Jungle’s 38% rise in its second weekend—though of course that film opened a week later in the calendar than The Next Level and also came out after that year’s Star Wars entry The Last Jedi rather than before it, making a direct comparison between the two somewhat difficult. In any event, The Next Level now stands at a healthy $101.9 million and should play well through the remainder of the holiday season as kids across the country enjoy an extended winter break.
Disney’s Frozen II held up well in third place with an estimated $12.3 million, bringing the total for the animated sequel to an excellent $386.5 million through the end of its fifth weekend. Look for the animated sequel to soon surpass the first Frozen’s $400.7 million lifetime total.
Fourth place went to Cats, Universal’s big-screen adaptation of the blockbuster Broadway musical. With $6.5 million from 3,380 locations, the expensive title (the budget is a reported $100 million) is an undeniable disappointment for the studio, though not exactly an unforeseen result given the film’s horrendous reviews (it has just 19% on Rotten Tomatoes) and the formation of a “so-bad-it’s-good” perception among prospective audiences even before anyone had the opportunity to see it.
Unfortunately, not even a star-studded cast (Taylor Swift, Jennifer Hudson, Jason Derulo, James Corden) could overcome the all-but-disastrous early buzz, and once critics got their claws into it there seemed to be no righting the ship. While some suggested early on that Cats could perhaps overcome the negative reviews and mount a sort of fan-driven Greatest Showman-style box office rebound, the film’s poor “C+” Cinemascore—a far cry from Showman’s “A” grade—and so-so 62% Rotten Tomatoes Audience Score (versus Showman’s 86%) suggest that likely isn’t in the cards. The film suffered more bad press over the weekend when it was reported that a new version of the movie with improved visual effects was made available to exhibitors on Sunday.
Knives Out posted another strong hold in fifth place, easing just 33% to an estimated $6.1 million in its fourth weekend of release. The total for the Lionsgate title now stands at an impressive $89.5 million, with $100 million close at hand.
Lionsgate also took the No. 6 spot with its fact-based dark comedy-drama Bombshell, which brought in an estimated $5.07 million from 1,480 locations in its wide debut. That’s an okay result for the film, which has garnered mixed-to-positive reviews and benefitted from a substantial buzz factor thanks to a clever marketing campaign and a star-studded cast that includes Charlize Theron, Margot Robbie and Nicole Kidman. The studio notes that 62% of the audience was women while 87% was over the age of 25.
Following a disappointing $4.6 million opening last weekend, Richard Jewell fell to seventh place in its sophomore frame with an estimated $2.5 million, bringing the total for the Clint Eastwood-directed drama to just $9.5 million after ten days of release. Though there was some speculation that audiences in the South and Midwest could bolster the film’s performance going forward given the subject matter and Eastwood’s substantial drawing power in those regions, it’s looking like the film will instead fade off quickly.
Rounding out the Top 10, Universal’s Queen & Slim finished in eighth place with in an estimated $1.85 million in its fourth weekend for $36.6 million to date; Fox’s Ford v. Ferrari (released by Disney) and Black Christmas both grossed an estimated $1.8 million, tying for ninth place. The racing drama now has $102 million through the end of its sixth weekend, while Universal’s the holiday-themed horror film has $7.2 million so far. We’ll see how the placement shakes out once actuals come in.
After scoring the second-best per-screen average of the year in its debut last weekend, A24’s Uncut Gems remained in just five locations and brought in an estimated $232K, good for a per-screen average of over $46K. The crime-thriller, which has Adam Sandler turning in a much-buzzed-about dramatic performance, has brought in just over $1 million to date.
Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker opened to an estimated $198 million in 52 territories, bringing its global opening total to $373.5 million. Though undeniably impressive, that’s a significant drop from The Last Jedi‘s $450 million worldwide debut and The Force Awakens‘ $528.9 million, making it the lowest global opening of the new trilogy. Looking at individual markets, Rise of Skywalker debuted to $26.8 million in the U.K., $21.8 million in Germany, $15.2 million in France, $14.6 million in Japan, $12.6 million in Australia and $12.1 million in China — which is way down from The Last Jedi‘s already-disappointing $28.7 million debut in the country and way way down from The Force Awakens‘ $53 million opening there.
Jumanji: The Next Level brought in an estimated $32.6 million in 52 markets, bringing its international total to $210 million and its global cume to $312 million.
Sunday’s Studio Weekend Estimates (Domestic)
FRI, DEC. 20 – SUN, DEC. 22
|1||Star Wars: The Rise Of Skywalker||$175,500,000||—||4,406||—||$39,832||$175,500,000||1||Disney|
|2||Jumanji: The Next Level||$26,125,000||-56%||4,227||0||$6,181||$101,936,365||2||Sony Pictures|
|7||Richard Jewell||$2,565,000||-45%||2,502||0||$1,025||$9,542,659||2||Warner Bros.|
|8||Queen & Slim||$1,850,000||-48%||1,078||-482||$1,716||$36,598,765||4||Universal Pictures|
|9||Black Christmas||$1,800,000||-58%||2,625||0||$686||$7,248,650||2||Universal Pictures|
|10||Ford v. Ferrari||$1,800,000||-56%||1,433||-1462||$1,256||$101,961,608||6||20th Century Fox|
|11||A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood||$1,300,000||-60%||1,524||-1331||$853||$52,495,051||5||Sony Pictures|
|2||Dark Waters||$312,000||-84%||451||-1659||$692||$10,067,609||5||Focus Features|
|3||A Hidden Life||$250,000||396%||106||101||$2,358||$322,143||2||Fox Searchlight|
|4||21 Bridges||$230,000||-81%||350||-1183||$657||$27,165,123||5||STX Entertainment|
|5||Jojo Rabbit||$186,000||-50%||230||-170||$809||$20,393,194||10||Fox Searchlight|
|7||Last Christmas||$155,000||-66%||274||-342||$566||$34,843,055||7||Universal Pictures|
|8||Playing with Fire||$150,000||-77%||287||-1094||$523||$43,723,059||7||Paramount Pictures|
|11||Maleficent: Mistress of Evil||$107,000||-35%||180||-165||$594||$112,916,674||10||Disney|
|13||Terminator: Dark Fate||$46,000||-65%||120||-130||$383||$62,196,065||8||Paramount|
|2||Honey Boy||$59,243||-75%||85||-302||$697||$2,849,567||7||Amazon Studios|
|3||Pain and Glory||$40,425||-17%||44||-13||$919||$3,766,135||12||Sony Pictures Classics|
|6||Invisible life||$8,364||—||2||—||$4,182||$8,364||1||Amazon Studios|
|7||En Brazos de un Asesino||$6,000||-91%||24||-136||$250||$410,255||3||Lionsgate / Pantelion Films|