It’s been a long and winding road for the second anthology film in the Star Wars franchise, but its release is finally here. Fittingly, this marks the series’ return to its summer roots for the first time since 2005’s Revenge of the Sith — and it so happens to land on the exact 41st anniversary of the original Star Wars, which released in 32 theaters on Wednesday, May 25, 1977.
Solo: A Star Wars Story
Opening Weekend Range: $100 – 125 million (3-day) / $125 – 150 million (4-day)
This week’s tracking for Solo again sees a drop from previous indications. A number of factors are in play as social media buzz stalled last week after having been significantly ahead (by a factor of nearly 2) of Rogue One and Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2’s Twitter footprints earlier this month.
Of note, Disney enters the weekend with official projections of $130 – 150 million for the four-day opening.
Let’s break things down one last time before the weekend:
Ultimately, this is still Star Wars. The brand has endured its share of criticisms in decades past and gone on to still produce blockbuster runs at the box office. Appealing to families and casual moviegoers is the name of Disney’s game with this film as it’s well positioned at the start of summer vacation for most in North America.
In addition, the strong reception of Force Awakens and Rogue One — plus Last Jedi‘s own supporters — have expanded the franchise’s base to include a new generation of moviegoers that may be more welcoming to a prequel about one of its most popular characters without his iconic originating actor.
As a young Lando, Donald Glover’s own cross-media popularity is a considerable advantage here, too.
Aforementioned tracking has come down from previous heights, but perspective is paramount. This is ultimately a prequel film whose title character’s fate — plus two other leads — are well known among even casual Star Wars viewers.
Doubling down on the lack of fervent intrigue that Rogue One‘s entirely new cast of characters provided it, critics’ reviews — while generally positive — aren’t up to the higher standards of the previous three films (which isn’t a surprise to anyone who followed news surrounding the directorial change). In an era where more than just die hard fans pay attention to things like a Tomatometer, that’s important coming at the tail-end of a month that has already been carried by two fan-driven blockbusters — both of which look to perform well over the holiday.
None of the recent Star Wars films have opened in a market this competitive, something that’s reflected in this entry’s significantly more modest presales reports.
…And The Ugly
The elephant in the room is the fact that some die hard “fans” have been exceptionally vocal about their displeasure with the direction of the franchise. It quietly began when Disney purchased the brand almost six years ago, but quickly escalated into more noticeable complaints among internet circles as the announced Force Awakens and Rogue One casts proved to be increasingly diverse.
Certain plot elements and character fates of The Last Jedi further alienated some of those critics just five months ago, leading to a grassroots campaign that purposefully deflated its Rotten Tomatoes audience score — a strategy used soon after to “vote down” audience scores for Black Panther. A similar campaign seems to have occurred again with Solo as the target: its audience score dropped from 92 percent two months ago to an abnormal 37 percent as of this writing. (Even The Emoji Movie earned a 62 percent rating before release, which had been the lowest of any wide release in the past four years.)
The franchise has overcome obstacles and preconceptions both large and small in years past, but typically with larger breaks between films that allowed time for anticipation and enthusiasm to marinate again. This time around, even with the broader appeal to average moviegoers having potential to offset the more negative components, some of the existing backlash may have snowballed with such rapid momentum that (former?) fans who usually show up even after swearing off the franchise will indeed sit this one out… or will they?
Expect a run similar to Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull, which opened to $126.9 million over its four-day debut in May 2008. Although that was a different era with a different set of circumstances leading up to release, there’s an odd symmetry to the fact that a former Harrison Ford character is returning to the big screen exactly ten years after that long-awaited sequel split fans.
Overall, tracking metrics still suggest the film has a shot at unseating Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End‘s eleven-year-old Memorial Day record $139.8 million four-day frame, although it’s tough to call that a sure thing anymore. Even if it falls short, Disney isn’t going to be hurting.
Top 10 Comparisons
Boxoffice projects this four-day weekend’s top ten films will amass close to $250 million or more. That would represent at least a 47 percent increase over 2017’s extended Memorial Day weekend, which tallied $169.8 million and was led by the $78.5 million debut of Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales.
|Film||Distributor||4-Day Weekend Forecast||Projected Domestic Total through Monday, May 28||% Change from Last Wknd|
|Solo: A Star Wars Story||Disney / Lucasfilm||$133,000,000*||$133,000,000*||NEW|
|Avengers: Infinity War||Disney / Marvel||$21,600,000||$628,100,000||-27%|
|Show Dogs||Global Road||$5,100,000||$12,900,000||-16%|
|Life of the Party||Warner Bros. / New Line||$5,000,000||$39,000,000||-34%|
|A Quiet Place||Paramount||$3,800,000||$181,600,000||-3%|
* = Official Weekend Forecast Range: $100 – 125 million (3-day) / $125 – 150 million (4-day)