Prior to its opening, ‘Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker’ was tracking to open in the neighborhood of $170M-$175M, but it Forced its way past that to $179+M, which is a great opening, but naysayers are poo-pooing it by pointing out that this is only the third-best December opening, and the third-best opening for a Disney ‘Star Wars’ movie. Not to editorialize too much, but a big chunk of people, including professional critics, seem to just want to see this picture fail. Its Rotten Tomatoes score is a mediocre 57%. But reviews weren’t going to keep audiences away from seeing the final movie in the “Skywalker Saga” for themselves, whether it was good or bad. (And opinions are split.)
Its CinemaScore is a B+, which isn’t bad, but it’s lower than the A- audiences gave to ‘Solo: A Star Wars Story’, and that was a turkey– the first flop in the entire franchise. In fact, B+ is the lowest CinemaScore any ‘Star Wars’ movie has ever gotten, but trust me, it is FAR from the worst ‘Star Wars’ movie. Very FAR from it. Its PostTrak scores were strong, with 4 out of 5 stars overall, with kids under 12 giving it 4½ and parents giving it 5– a perfect score!
Online, reaction is completely mixed, leaning toward positive, but for every individual that loved it (or at least liked it), another hated it. In other words, all those social media reactions are worthless, because they are so disparate. Folk will have to make up their own minds as to how they feel about this movie. (Which should be how it works all the time, anyway.)
Earlier in the weekend, it looked as though ‘The Rise of Skywalker’ was going to land closer to $200M, but the Saturday drop-off was steeper than anticipated. Perhaps some of those negative reactions are scaring people away, or at least making them think that this isn’t worth rushing out to see. As far as extenuating circumstances, it was also the last Saturday before Christmas, so last-minute shopping probably steered a few people away from theaters, toward Walmart, Target, etc.
Disney remains confident that ‘Star Wars’ will continue to hold up in the coming weeks. It probably will be a popular Christmas day destination for people, seeing as how there’s not a lot of competition. It is eyed to make around $600M at the domestic box office.
‘The Rise of Skywalker’ was never going to break records, because it was never going to be able to compete with ‘The Force Awakens‘. There was just too much anticipation for that film– the first installment of the final trilogy, the first ‘Star Wars’ flick from Disney, the first movie after the prequels which arrived years beforehand, and the first to arrive from the mind of fan-favorite director J.J. Abrams. But even after the negative reaction to ‘The Last Jedi’ and the poor performance of ‘Solo’, everyone that is even a casual ‘Star Wars’ fan wants to see how the Saga ends. But because of those earlier disappointments, the burning desire to catch it on opening weekend is probably not as strong.
‘The Rise of Skywalker’s debut didn’t shatter records, but despite any negative chatter, it’s a great opening. On the other hand…
What the hell was anyone thinking when they decided this was a good idea? ‘Cats’ was projected to open with $10M-$15M, which would have been not-great, considering that its production budget was $95M. It did even worse, earning just $6.5M. Critics roasted it with a dreadful 19% RT score. (That’s based on the reaction from critics that actually saw it. Universal scheduled its press screenings at the exact same time and date as Disney did for those of ‘The Rise of Skywalker’, hoping that the majority of journalists would go see ‘Star Wars’ rather than this dud, thus reducing the number of ‘Cats’ reviews which the studio knew were going to be terrible.)
Audiences didn’t like it either, slapping it with a low C+ CinemaScore and 2 stars via PostTrak. That’s actually an improvement, as it was only averaging 1½ stars on Friday night.
The ‘Cats’ Broadway musical was a sensation in the ’80s and ’90s, but it hasn’t aged well. Even theater geeks think it’s a stupid show nowadays. (It has no plot. It’s just a string of songs based on T.S. Eliot poems.)
Musical movies aren’t usually huge in their opening weekends. They tend to “have legs”– they perform steadily over longer periods of time, versus action blockbusters which open big and drop rapidly. Some had hope that ‘Cats’ would emulate the performance of ‘The Greatest Showman’ which also didn’t get great reviews, but that movie was a crowd-pleaser, with an A CinemaScore. No one is telling their friends to go see ‘Cats’.
In a move that I am pretty sure is the first of its kind, Universal is delivering a NEW version of ‘Cats’ to theaters as I type this. The new version, created at the request of director Tom Hooper, includes “some improved visual effects.” So if ‘Cats’ has nine lives, it’s onto its second, although it’s hard to imagine that this will make much of a difference at this point.
As is often the case, ‘Star Wars’ is sort of monopolizing the multiplexes, making nearly $200M. The #2 movie, ‘Jumanji: The Next Level‘ made $26.1M, a massive drop off, so nearly everyone that went to a movie this weekend went to see ‘Star Wars’.
- Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker (Disney) – $179+M
- Jumanji: The Next Level (Sony) – $26.1M
- Frozen 2 (Disney) – $12.3M
- Cats (Universal) – $6.5M
- Knives Out (Lionsgate/Media Rights) – $6.1
Christmas arrives on Wednesday, so most movies are opening then, ahead of the weekend. That includes war movie ‘1917’, ‘Little Women’, and ‘Spies in Disguise’. ‘1917’ and ‘Little Women’ are getting released on the final week of the year in order to qualify for awards. (‘1917’ received a couple of Golden Globe nominations. Some were outraged that ‘Little Women’ was mostly snubbed. Oh well, there’s always the Academy Awards.)
‘Spies in Disguise‘, an animated movie featuring the voices of Will Smith and Tom Holland, was produced by 20th Century Fox, and was in the works before that studio was bought out by Disney. It’s basically just getting dumped. Disney doesn’t expect it to be a success, but it’s already made, so here ya go.
‘Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker’ is expected to be #1 next week, so check back to see how things go!