Weekend Box Office (December 15 - 17, 2017)
THIS WEEKEND A wildly popular box office force awakened as the much anticipated Skywalker tentpole Star Wars: The Last Jedi arrived with an explosive launch delivering the second biggest opening weekend of all-time. Disney and Lucasfilm amassed an eye-popping amount of business grossing estimated $220M in North America alone and $450M worldwide in the first weekend of play. With the Christmas holidays coming up in a week, the new space saga will demolish the billion dollar barrier within days.
Averaging a scorching $51,996 per theater from 4,232 locations in the U.S. and Canada, Last Jedi connected with the massive fan base and came in only 11% behind the $248M debut of 2015's Star Wars: The Force Awakens which still stands as the all-time record holder. That film enjoyed 32 years of anticipation from fans wanting to see the beloved original characters again. Last Jedi, on the other hand, is the third Star Wars movie in as many years and was always expected to open lower. But retaining 89% of the opening weekend audience was incredibly good, especially since the box office has been seeing franchise fatigue hit so many major brands out there.
Compared to last year's spin-off film Rogue One, Last Jedi debuted a sturdy 42% higher. Disney has followed the James Cameron strategy by slotting Star Wars films in mid-December allowing them to open huge and then have Christmas help the second frame and New Years boost the third round. Titanic and Avatar began their leggy runs this way in 1997 and 2009, respectively. Seven of the eight largest opening weekends in history are now from Disney-owned films.
Critics and audiences alike have been enjoying the new Star Wars. Reviews were extremely positive with some calling the PG-13 pic the best installment of the entire saga. Moviegoers polled by CinemaScore gave a promising A grade. Studio data showed that the crowd was 58% male and 62% over 25. 30% of the weekend gross came from 3D formats and the film accounted for a whopping 82% of all money spent on the top ten films this weekend.
The weekend kicked off with a monster $104.8M opening day gross on Friday which included $45M from Thursday night previews. Both of those figures were the second biggest of all time behind Force Awakens which did $119.1M including $57M from pre-shows. Saturday dropped 39% to $64M and the studio is estimating a 20% dip Sunday to $51.3M. A year ago, Rogue One fell 19% on its Sunday. Add in Coco and Thor: Ragnarok and Disney is now in a position to control the number one spot over eight of the final nine weekends of 2017. The trio will probably join forces to gross over $3.3 billion worldwide and the studio has plenty of moneymakers on the calendar for next year including the next Avengers and Star Wars films.
Where does The Last Jedi go from here with the holidays coming up? If it follows the same trajectory as Rogue One from last year then it ends up with $755M domestic. If it follows Force Awakens however, then the mighty hit will soar to a jaw-dropping $831M beating Avatar for the number two spot on the list of all-time domestic blockbusters.
Outside of North America, Last Jedi premiered to a giant $230M from all markets except China which opens on January 5. Rogue One and Force Awakens also released there in early January. Top debuts were the U.K. at $36.7M, Germany with $23.6M and France at $18.1M. Proportionately, recent Star Wars movies had domestic shares that were higher than what many other Hollywood action franchises had. Force Awakens was at 45.3% while Rogue One was a very high 50.5%. 30-40% is more common for big action and sci-fi tentpoles. Still, the road ahead for The Last Jedi could see a path to the neighborhood of $1.7 billion worldwide, and that's not counting sales from merchandise, video release, TV rights, etc.
In a box office galaxy far, far away in second place was Fox's new animated entry Ferdinand which opened to an estimated $13.3M from 3,621 locations for a mild $3,680 average. The PG-rated comedy is meant to make its cash over the long term across the holiday season and the studio positioned it to grab a seat in the marketplace just as schools around the country begin their end-of-year holiday breaks each day throughout this week ahead. Two years ago, the studio countered Force Awakens with the kidpic Alvin and the Chipmunks: The Road Chip which bowed to a similar $14.3M before finishing at six times that amount with $85.9M.
After three weeks atop the box office charts, Pixar's Coco had to give up the crown to one of its Disney siblings. Down 46%, the toon grossed an estimated $10M and boosted its cume to $150.8M. Coco is now the 18th film from the animation giant to break $150M domestic. That's every one of its movies, with the lone exception of The Good Dinosaur. The global tally is now $448.2M led by China's amazing $153.9M which is even bigger than the North American take. With the holiday season still ahead, plus openings in six major overseas markets to come, there is much potential still ahead for the Mexico-set pic.
Against all the high-profile blockbusters this season, Julia Roberts has quietly been building a little fortune with her new film Wonder which slipped 36% to an estimated $5.4M in its fifth weekend pushing the cume up to an impressive $109.3M. The Lionsgate hit is the top-grossing film that the Oscar winner has anchored since Erin Brockovich in 2000.
Suffering one of the larger drops in the top ten, Justice League fell 57% to an estimated $4.2M as a new action tentpole seized control of audience attention. Warner Bros. has banked $219.5M to date and should be headed for a domestic final of about $235M putting it just ahead of last November's super hero offering Doctor Strange which did $232.6M. Considering how Justice League had more firepower from a collection of better known comic book characters, the studio can't be pleased with the result. The international take is now $414.5M (a quarter of that just from China) and global is now $634M. Finishing up in the neighborhood of $675M worldwide now seems likely which would be almost identical to Strange.
Audiences continued to flock to the comedy sequel Daddy's Home 2 which has displayed solid legs since debuting over a month ago. The Paramount film did an estimated $3.8M, off 36%, for a $96.6M total. Marvel sequel Thor: Ragnarok took a stronger hit falling 53% to an estimated $3M giving Disney $306.4M domestic and $841.8M global.
After a formidable nationwide expansion, James Franco's The Disaster Artist stumbled falling 59% to an estimated $2.6M despite boosting its theater count by 20%. A24 sits at $12.9M to date. Fox's Murder on the Orient Express followed by declining 52% to an estimated $2.5M with a cume to date of $97.3M. Awards contender Lady Bird rounded out the top ten with an estimated $2.1M, down 39%, for a $26M sum.
In the shadow of Luke Skywalker, a number of smaller films generated solid results in limited release as they expanded during their journey through awards season. Guillermo del Toro's The Shape of Water grossed an estimated $1.7M from 158 locations for a $11,000 average and $3.6M total for Fox Searchlight. The Winston Churchill pic Darkest Hour took in an estimated $850,000 from 84 playdates for a $10,119 average for Focus which has made $2.3M so far. Both films expand next weekend into over 700 theaters nationwide a piece.
The Sony Classics drama Call Me By Your Name played in 30 sites and collected an estimated $492,000 for a $16,400 average. Cume is $2M. I, Tonya featuring Margot Robbie grossed an estimated $176,000 from just five houses for an impressive $35,200 average. Neon's cume is $554,000 with most of the release still ahead.
The top ten films grossed an estimated $267M which was up 31% from last year when Rogue One opened at number one with $155.1M; but down 12% from 2015 when The Force Awakens debuted in the top spot with $248M.
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Compared to projections, Star Wars: The Last Jedi opened ahead of my $212M forecast while Ferdinand came in slightly below my $15M prediction.
Be sure to check back on Thursday for a complete summary, including projections, for next weekend when the pre-Christmas frame brings a variety of choices including Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle, Pitch Perfect 3, The Greatest Showman, Downsizing, and Father Figures all opening in over 2,000 theaters each.
This column is updated three times each week: Thursday (upcoming weekend's summary), Sunday (post-weekend analysis with estimates), and Monday night (actuals). Opinions expressed in this column are those solely of the author.
Last Updated: December 17, 2017 at 3:15PM ET
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