Just how much of a disappointment is ‘Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker’s sub-$200m opening?

It was a weekend that surprised many, with ‘The Rise of Skywalker’ failing to live up to expectations as it earned $177m to top the Box Office in its penultimate weekend of the decade. Not to be outdone however was the musical ‘Cats’, who shocked all with just $6.6m between Friday and Sunday, to go down as one of the worst major openings in U.S. history.

How did the new releases get on?

Well, we didn’t see this coming. ‘The Rise of Skywalker’, the final instalment in the 42-year-long ‘Skywalker’ story of the ‘Star Wars’ franchise, opened to $177.4m over its 1st 3 days. It’s the lowest of the 3 ‘sequels’, and the first to open under $200m, after ‘The Force Awakens’ then-record $248m in December 2015 was followed by ‘The Last Jedi’s $220m 2 years later.

But while many (including us) call this a disappointment, some perspective is still required. It marks the 3rd largest opening ever for a December release, and is the 12th largest opening of all time, sitting comfortably between ‘Beauty and the Beast’ ($174.8m) and ‘Captain America: Civil War’ ($179.1m).

Disney were consistent with their pre-release forecasts of $165m, a clear indication of their expectations going into the Christmas period. Yet it’s not unreasonable (in fact it’s warranted) to have an inquiry into the $70m dropoff from just 4 years ago, especially as ‘TROS’ stands as the final chapter of possibly the most popular franchise in cinema’s history.

As noted in our predictions piece, ‘TROS’ from early was plagued with the ‘Lion King’ issue, where hopes of a $200m+ opening were seemingly quashed by its mixed critical reception. Both films received rotten ratings on the Tomatometer, and while ‘Lion King’ earned a strong A on Cinemascore, ‘TROS’ is 2nd best with an okay B+. With critics and audiences alike luke-warm (ha) to the film, just how surprising is its apparent underperformance?

Also doesn’t help that the film comes off the back of 2 of the most, well, divisive, ‘Star Wars’ entries in recent memory. While ‘The Last Jedi’ draws as many smiles as it does Youtube rants, ‘Solo’ was a complete bomb, which continued to sour many to the franchise as a whole.

You see, once ‘Star Wars’ went from a trilogy released every 3 years to 5 films in 5, you inevitably lose some of the viewers outside of the core, who aren’t as invested in returning every year for another follow-up. The loyalty simply isn’t there, especially as we aren’t talking about the MCU that has built itself up from comic books and a shared universe. It’s a completely different game, that, although Disney owns regardless, offers up new rules that they perhaps haven’t yet mastered.

It’s not all doom and gloom. As mentioned before, ‘TROS’ holds one of the biggest openings of all time. Its international opening of $375m included a massive $27m from the UK, $22m from Germany, and $15m from France (although it bombed with just $12m in China). It also now has the rest of the festive period to really leg out, with Christmas day offering ‘Spies in Disguise’ as the only major family audience competition. It needs just a 3.4x multiplier to reach $600m, a figure already achieved by ‘TFA’ (3.8x) and ‘Rogue One’ (3.4x). ‘TROS’ could yet well rise from uncertainty.

You know what won’t, though? Universal’s ‘Cats’, a film that was universally panned both by critics and audiences, culminating in just a $6.6mopening. Remember when we said it would at least touch ‘The Greatest Showman’s $8.8m, and that even a poor opening could be salvaged, like ‘The Greatest Showman’ with its 20x opening weekend multiplier?

Oops. ‘Cats’ looks destined to go down as one of the bombs of the year, as its $95m budget (soon to increase with Universal’s additional SFX) and C+ on Cinemascore nullify any chances of a successful run. Any chances of solace from fans overseas have been quickly ended too; the film earned just $11m worldwide in its 1st 3 days. ‘Dark Phoenix’ look out, the flop of the year award just got interesting.

As expected, ‘Bombshell’, the Jay Roach drama starring Charlize Theron, Margot Robbie, and Nicole Kidman, earned just $5.1m from 1,500 cinemas for a 6th place finish. It’s not the best start for the film, now on $5.5m domestically, as this total is still dwarfed by its $32m budget. Although the Christmas period offers a chance to leg out, we’re looking closely at films like ‘Molly’s Game’ which, after a similar platform release, ended on $29m after opening wide to $6.9m.

How did the others do?

Last weekend’s winner ‘Jumanji 2’ crossed the $100m barrier domestically this time around, earning $26.5m in its 2nd outing. What’s more surprising is that it’s now on an impressive $312m worldwide, after adding another $33m from 52 countries. It’s now the 26th biggest film of the year globally, and will hit the top 20 by this time next week.

Other notables from the weekend

  • For the 1st time in India’s history, their biggest grossing film of the year will not be an Indian film, but rather ‘Avengers: Endgame’, with $62.7m.
  • With ‘Star Wars’, Disney (not including Fox) has now recorded 17 #1’s at the Box Office this year, 7 more than nearest challenger ‘Universal’ (11). Including Fox, this jumps to 19.
  • Cats’ opened to $6.6m from 3,380 cinemas, marking the 19th worst opening for any film to have ever been released into over 3,000 cinemas.
  • Ford v Ferrari’ marks 20th Century Fox’s 1st $100m domestic earner since last November’s ‘Bohemian Rhapsody’.
  • You’ll have to go back to 2017 (‘Murder on the Orient Express’) to find a Fox film not based on real events to have earned $100m stateside.
  • Frozen 2’ has now topped ‘Toy Story 4’ as the 2nd biggest animated film globally in 2019 with $1.11bn, behind only ‘The Lion King’ ($1.66bn).
  • It’s now also the 5th biggest animated film of all time globally.
  • Knives Out’s $90m domestic total leapfrogs ‘Good Boys’ as the 4th largest for a purely original film in 2019.
RankLast Week RankFilmSTUDIOTotal U.S. GrossWeekend Gross Weekend dropJUMPCUT’s predictionWeek number
1New!Star Wars: The Rise of SkywalkerDisney$177.4m$177.4m$195m1
21Jumanji: The Next LevelSony$102.3m$26.5m-55.2%$26m2
32Frozen 2Disney$387.2m$13m-31.9%$10.3m5
53Knives OutLionsgate$90m$6.5m-28.8%$5.3m4
74Richard JewellWarner Bros$9.6m$2.6m-45.1%$2.4m2
87Queen & SlimUniversal$36.6m$1.8m-48.5%$1.9m4
96Ford v FerrariFox-Disney$102m$1.8m-54.8%$2m6
105Black ChristmasUniversal$7.3m$1.8m-56.7%$1.5m2