‘Star Wars: The Last Jedi’ Speeds Toward $200 Million-Plus Weekend in the U.S.

The box office Force is with Disney-Lucasfilm’s “Star Wars: The Last Jedi,” which is heading for more than $200 million at 4,232 North American sites in its opening weekend, early estimates showed Friday.

The tentpole opened with $45 million on Thursday night — the second-largest Thursday night preview gross ever in North America, trailing only the $57 million for “Star Wars: The Force Awakens” two years ago. The total for Friday (which includes Thursday night) should wind up in the $95 million to $98 million range, followed by as much as $60 million on Saturday and somewhere around $45 million to $48 million on Sunday.

That would mean “Star Wars: The Last Jedi” will become only the fourth movie to top $200 million domestically in its opening frame, joining 2015’s “The Force Awakens” at $248.8 million, 2015’s “Jurassic World” with $208.8 million, and 2012’s “The Avengers” with $207.4 million. It will finish the weekend far above the “Star Wars” spinoff “Rogue One,” which opened with $155.1 million on the same weekend a year ago.

The stellar performance comes a day after Disney announced it was spending $52.4 billion to acquire 21st Century Fox assets — a move that will make the company the undisputed leader in box office share in coming years.

Domestic tracking for “Star Wars: The Last Jedi” has remained in the $200 million range since Nov. 22, when first estimates emerged. “Star Wars: The Force Awakens” wound up its domestic run with a record-setting $936.7 million and $2.07 billion worldwide. “Rogue One” went on to gross $532.2 million by the end of its domestic run and $1.03 billion worldwide.

Directed by Rian Johnson, “Star Wars: The Last Jedi” picks up where “Star Wars: The Force Awakens” left off. It stars returning cast members Mark Hamill, Carrie Fisher, Adam Driver, Daisy Ridley, John Boyega, Oscar Isaac, and Andy Serkis. The new stars include Kelly Marie Tran, Laura Dern, and Benicio del Toro.

Fox is counter-programming with its animated family comedy “Ferdinand” — opening at 3,621 locations in North America amid expectations of a $15 million debut. The movie is based on the children’s book “The Story of Ferdinand” and directed by Carlos Saldanha, with John Cena voicing the Spanish bull who doesn’t want to fight.

Disney-Pixar’s “Coco” should lead the rest of the pack this weekend with about $7 million in its fourth frame, enough to lift the animated musical to nearly $149 million.

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