The most anticipated box office weekend of 2017 is imminent. For the third consecutive year, a Star Wars film will crash the end-of-year party with what should be one of the biggest opening weekends in history — again.
How high will The Last Jedi go, and what factors are at play? Will Ferdinand successfully counter-program in its debut? Our final analysis and forecast:
Star Wars: The Last Jedi
Disney / Lucasfilm
Opening Weekend Range: $195 million – $225 million
Domestic Total Range: $650 million – $750 million
- As previously covered in our Long Range Forecast back in October, Star Wars is a centerpiece of pop culture that has no rival in terms of its consistently massive box office performances and enduring appeal that have spanned forty years.
- In case you missed it, The Force Awakens became the top domestic earner in history with its $936.7 million run two years ago. In terms of tickets sold and inflation, that film ranks second only behind A New Hope as the most attended film in the franchise, while only trailing Titanic as the most attended movie since 1982’s E.T.: The Extra-Terrestrial. Audiences young and old fell in love with the new characters introduced for the saga’s newest era, with the likes of Rey, Kylo Ren, Finn, and Poe Dameron becoming instant favorites for fans and those just discovering the series for the first time. In particular, Rey’s immense popularity has helped to expand what was already a significant female fan base for the series.
- The return of Mark Hamill’s Luke Skywalker in a far more expanded role will certainly invite back older fans who grew up with the character and had hoped to see more of him in the previous chapter.
- On a similar note, intrigue around Carrie Fisher’s final performance as General Leia following her untimely passing one year ago will be of major bittersweet interest for fans as the actress and character both had immeasurable impacts on pop culture over the last four decades.
- Last year’s Rogue One, with its $532.2 million domestic run, continued to expose today’s audiences to the series with another strongly received blockbuster entry in the Star Wars canon.
- Writer/Director Rian Johnson has a strong reputation following his success with films like Looper, Brick, and several highly acclaimed episodes of Breaking Bad. The confidence Disney has placed in him to start an entirely new trilogy from scratch in the coming years speaks volumes about how all parties involved feel about what he’s done with Last Jedi and where he’s taking the franchise. That’s certainly reflected in the reviews thus far as Rotten Tomatoes critics’ have awarded the eighth episode with a Certified Fresh score at 94 percent from 193 reviews, and an 8.2/10 average rating — nearly identical to Force Awakens‘ 93 percent and 8.2 marks.
Strictly speaking, there are no “cons” as The Last Jedi is arguably the safest box office bet to hit theaters since the last two Star Wars films. For those interested in comparisons, though, it is worth noting several metrics and other notes to keep perspective:
- Second acts are often the darkest and most challenging from a narrative and character standpoint. For many family-driven franchises, that often translates to some diminished returns from preceding films. In large part because of its extensive, four-quad fan base with massive appeal to kids, this has been demonstrably true with Star Wars: both The Empire Strikes Back and Attack of the Clones followed films (A New Hope and The Phantom Menace) that were among the biggest cinematic events in history (albeit, on different levels). With The Force Awakens having claimed the mantle of this generation’s cultural movie event, The Last Jedi should naturally see some drop-off at the box office. Still, even Star Wars at its lowest box office point has historically represented a level of performance that most franchises can only hope to achieve once — let alone eight-going-on-a-presumed-nine times.
- In terms of tracking, Last Jedi has shown interest and awareness levels between those of Rogue One and The Force Awakens, further reinforcing our long range forecasts from months prior. On the social media front, Twitter activity has trailed that of the latter title by a significant margin, while also coming in just behind last year’s anthology film. That being said, Last Jedi has generated about 165 percent more relevant Twitter mentions than Jurassic World did in the comparable week-of-release window.
- Although Hamill, Fisher, strong reviews, and the sheer nature of fandom should convince most older fans to return, there was still a portion of Force Awakens‘ audience not as thrilled with that film’s perceived retread of plot elements from the original 1977 film. Nevertheless, Star Wars‘ fan base has always been highly opinionated and often critical, yet every film has gone on to post record-breaking opening numbers in some fashion — another testament to the franchise’s long-standing endurance.
Fox / Blue Sky
Opening Weekend Range: $14 million – $20 million
Domestic Total Range: $95 million – $130 million
- Fox will be playing the long game with this animated title as the Christmas and New Year’s corridor should be very lucrative for the last animated release of the year, with only Coco serving as direct competition for families with young kids. The counter-programming strategy this weekend is aimed to reel in those parents with children for whom The Last Jedi may be too intense.
- Blue Sky has churned out a number of box office hits over the years, namely the Ice Age and Rio franchises, so there’s plenty of reason to expect broad appeal with their latest project. John Cena and the rest of the cast should aid interest among parents as comedies tend to do very well in the animation medium.
- Facebook growth has been very respectable: its 386,000+ fans tops that of DreamWorks’ Home by nearly 32 percent.
- The primary concern at this stage is the the family appeal of Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle, which is pacing very well in pre-release forecasts. Positive word of mouth out of last week’s Amazon Prime member screening has further bolstered expectations for that film.
- The lack of reviews from critics is another minor concern, although animated films are often more immune to that than other films — especially around the holidays. Still, it’s a factor in what have been fairly volatile forecasts for the film’s box office potential.
- Traditional tracking has paced behind that of The Boss Baby, Sing, and Home, although that’s to be expected on some level given the circumstances of this weekend and the proximity of the holidays.
The Weekend Forecast:
|Title||Distributor||Weekend||Domestic Total through Sunday, December 17||% Change|
|Star Wars: The Last Jedi||Disney / Lucasfilm||$210,000,000||$210,000,000||NEW|
|Coco||Disney / Pixar||$11,000,000||$151,900,000||-40%|
|Justice League||Warner Bros.||$3,600,000||$218,900,000||-63%|
|The Disaster Artist||A24||$3,500,000||$13,800,000||-45%|
|Daddy’s Home 2||Paramount||$3,000,000||$95,900,000||-49%|
|Thor: Ragnarok||Disney / Marvel Studios||$2,800,000||$306,100,000||-56%|
|Murder on the Orient Express||Fox||$2,400,000||$97,200,000||-53%|
|The Star||Sony / Columbia||$2,300,000||$35,900,000||-37%|