There was never any question of whether or not Rogue One: A Star Wars Story would make a lot of money. Instead, it’s always been a question of exactly how much money it would make, and how we would judge that compared to the astronomical performance of The Force Awakens.
Well, here’s our early answer: $290 million.
That’s what Rogue One is estimated to have made worldwide over the weekend, $155m of that coming from the US and Canada. By comparison, exactly one year ago The Force Awakens opened to a record-setting $247m from the US and Canada alone, $529m worldwide. To put it another way, according to Deadline roughly 8% of the combined US-Canada population saw The Force Awakens in its opening weekend compared to just 5.1% for Rogue One.
Gosh, Rogue One’s numbers sure don’t seem nearly as impressive. Total failure, what Donald Trump would call a “real loser.” Right?
No, no, no…total failure is what Collateral Beauty just did (Will Smith’s worst opening weekend of all time), what Miss Sloane continues to do (a near 80% second weekend plunge) and what Assassin’s Creed will probably do in a couple of days.
Rogue One didn’t fail; it simply failed to be historic. However, it was never going to do that, not when it’s a stand-alone movie starring an entirely new cast and designed to simply hold us over until the real movie we want, i.e., Episode 8, arrives this time next year.
Disney has spent months downplaying expectations, more or less telling us they’re not projecting Rogue One to be anywhere near as successful as Force Awakens, but they’re cool with that. Rogue One is, after all, an experiment, the first of its kind for one of the biggest film franchises of all time. It tells the type of continuity gap-filling story which used to only exist in comic books, fan novels and video games, and it takes a far darker approach to the material than usual, definitely in the running with Empire and Revenge of the Sith for the title of “Grimmest Star Wars movie ever.”
But, most importantly, it’s a Star Wars movie. Slap that brand on anything, and you’ve got a good chance of recouping your investment, especially after the serious shot in the arm that was Force Awakens. Plus, another Star Wars movie in theaters means another year of robust toy sales, with little kids whose attention spans are rivaled only by gnats (uh-oh, I feel a “get off my lawn” speech coming on) not being allowed to have a year to potentially forget about good ole Star Wars.
So, if Rogue One measures up just fine to Force Awakens, mostly because comparisons between the two are pointless, how well does Rogue One measure up with expectations?
It actually exceeds them.
As of one month ago, here’s what the box office expectations were, as per The Hollywood Reporter:
Stand-alone film Rogue One: A Star Wars Story — one of the biggest box-office curiosities of the year — is projected to open to $130-million-plus in North America over the Dec. 16-18 weekend, which would mark the second-biggest December opening of all time behind last year’s Star Wars: The Force Awakens. The movie came on tracking Tuesday morning, with one service suggesting it could even approach $150 million. (Conversely, another service has it opening in the high $120-million range, underscoring what a guessing game tracking can be.)
Whichever service it was that predicted an opening closer to $150 million deserves a gold star because they were the only ones who had that much confidence in Rogue One’s box office potential. The reason no other service was willing to go that high, though, is probably because pre-release tracking is entirely dependent upon surveying potential filmgoers and comparing those survey results to historical precedents, which is nearly impossible to do because, historically, summer blockbusters like Rogue One aren’t supposed to come out in December.
Prior to The Force Awakens, the biggest December openings of all time belonged to Hobbit: Unexpected Journey ($84m), I Am Legend ($77m), Avatar ($77m), Hobbit: Desolation of Smaug ($73m) and Lord of the Rings: Return of the King ($72m). As such, while Rogue One may have fallen nearly $100m short of Force Awakens’ domestically it nearly doubled the opening of the old December record holder, Unexpected Journey.
Does this mean Rogue One will dominate the global box office for the next 2 months and join Force Awakens, Titanic and Avatar in the ultra-exclusive “na na na-na-na, we grossed $2 billion worldwide, and you didn’t it” club? No, but it’s well on its way to being a big, stinking success, opening up an entirely new world of possibilities for Disney and Star Wars. Forbes just projected Rogue One‘s domestic total to fall anywhere between $458m and $623m, which would make it one of the top 10 grossing films of all time either way. May the force of capitalism be with you, always.