“Rogue One: A Star Wars Story” is set to be the biggest hit of the holiday movie season and one of the biggest blockbusters of this or any year.
The space opera is poised to open to between $120 million to $150 million domestically this weekend. It should add another $150 million to that tally from foreign territories when it opens in nearly every important moviegoing market save for China and South Korea. Of course, this comes with a caveat. When movies open at these levels, it can be difficult to accurately project ticket sales. There’s a lot of predictive room between huge and massive.
Domestically, “Rogue One’ will likely put up the second-largest December opening in history, behind the $248 million debut of “The Force Awakens.”
Most other studios are simply letting “Rogue One” blot out the sun, and steering clear of its opening weekend. But “Collateral Beauty,” a tear-jerker with Will Smith, will attempt to siphon off some older moviegoers whose eyes glaze over at the mention of midi-chlorians. The New Line and Warner Bros. release is eyeing a $12.5 million opening as it hopes to establish a toehold before the holiday movie season begins in earnest. “Collateral Beauty” cost roughly $35 million to produce.
Paramount will also release “Fences,” Denzel Washington’s adaptation of August Wilson’s acclaimed play about a domineering father, in four theaters.
Things will get crowded at the multiplexes, and quickly. The coming weeks will see a flood of new releases such as “Sing,” an animated adventure from the creators of “Despicable Me”; “Passengers,” a science-fiction romance with Chris Pratt and Jennifer Lawrence; and “Assassins Creed,” a video-game adaptation.
Star Wars may be one of the world’s best-known and most beloved brands. “Rogue One,” however, remains something of a novelty. It’s the first spin-off film and the first to exist outside of the Skywalker family saga. The film centers on a group of rebels who are trying to steal plans for the Death Star, a planet-shaped spaceship. “Rogue One” takes place between the original trilogy and George Lucas’ prequels. “The Force Awakens” proved that there is still an enormous appetite for Jedi, Sith Lords, and star fighters. But that film brought back original stars such as Harrison Ford and Carrie Fisher. The hope is that “Rogue One” will further expand the Star Wars cinematic universe and demonstrate that Lucas’ mythology can support and sustain prequels, mashups, and standalone adventures. There’s already a Han Solo origin story in the works. If “Rogue One” works, it will be more proof that Disney chief Bob Iger was smart to push to buy Lucasfilm for $4 billion in 2012.
Critically, “Rogue One” is already a success. Reviews have been kind, with Variety’s Peter Debruge declaring that “for the original generation of ‘Star Wars’ fans who weren’t sure what to make of episodes one, two, and three, ‘Rogue One’ is the prequel they’ve always wanted.”
To meet demand, “Rogue One” will be available in nearly every format known to man, including 400 Imax screens, more than 500 Premium Large Format, and more than 3,500 3D locations.
The global domination of “Rogue One” will begin on Wednesday, when the film opens in France, Sweden, Denmark, Netherlands, Indonesia, and other areas. Thursday will bring the likes of the U.K., Germany, Australia, Brazil, Russia, and Mexico. Friday marks the film’s premiere in Japan, Spain, and Venezuela.
As for the U.S., the box office will start humming Thursday night when “Rogue One” kicks off, filling theaters with fans weaned on stories of Luke, Leia, and Han, and the curious, who are eager to experience a giant cultural happening.