As many predicted Rogue One: A Star Wars Story engaged the hyperdrive from day one and blasted off with a $290.5 million global debut. Disney’s Star Wars universe side story, which fills in the events immediately leading up to A New Hope, comes from English director Gareth Edwards, previously known for his 2014 Godzilla reboot. Rogue One doesn’t feature any highest echelon A-list star but instead has a talented cast with planned global appeal. Golden Globe nominee Felicity Jones plays the lead character Jyr Erso, a rebel caught in imperial custody, while Mexican fan favorite Diego Luna plays her eventual accomplice, Cassian Andor. Martial Arts movie veteran Donnie Yen, best known in the US for his Ip Man series, joins them as a blind warrior who believes in the force, while Mads Mikkelsen plays Jyr’s father, a scientist and eventual leader of the Rogue unit in their mission to uncover the blueprints for the Empire’s ultimate weapon, the Deathstar.
Rogue One made $155 million in the US alone, starting with an almost unheard of $29 million in Thursday previews. Last year’s uber hit The Force Awakens made an even more mind boggling $245 million in its opening weekend and went on the close its domestic run just shy of $1 billion. 2015’s rebirth of the Star Wars franchise landed TFA the biggest domestic release of all time (although adjusting for inflation puts it back to 11th place behind such classics as The Ten Commandments, Gone With the Wind, and of course the original 1977 Star Wars.). Rogue One won’t be entering the Parthenon of all time hits but its projected $600-650 million domestic lifetime gross should put it squarely within the top 30 best selling films ever ( again once the numbers are adjusted for inflation).
Continuing overseas Rogue kept its blasters drawn and swung its lightsabers masterfully to carve out a $135 million piece of the global box office. 55 markets welcomed Jones, Luna, and company this weekend with Number One finishes in every one of its new markets. The UK was its biggest score at $21 million (with 75% market share) followed by Germany at $12.5 million and Australia at $10.8 million. Russia was good for a not so out of the ordinary $5.6 million while Sweden kicked in a locally stratospheric $3.5 million. Asian powerhouse South Korea will have to wait until next weekend while China will see the film open on January 6. Disney expects to make a windfall there and has planned accordingly with TIE fighters and X-Wings being exhibited in Beijing and Shanghai over the past few weeks and the inclusion of Chinese stars Jiang Wen and the above mentioned Donnie Yen.
All of this global success from a galaxy far, far away left little room for any of the brave new comers in this weekend’s market to maneuver. Will Smith’s Collateral Beauty fell by the wayside with a sharply disappointing $7 million debutamong the lowest of his career. It made $4.6 million abroad as well for an $11.6 million global cume in its opening run: numbers that may inspire some fresh strategizing for an actor who is used to headlining super hits like Independence Day and the Men in Black series.
The only opener that managed to stay out of Rogue One’s way did so by sidestepping it altogether. The Great Wall, which stars Matt Damon as a Chinese general, opened to $57 million this weekend. Thomas Tull’s Legendary East partnered with Le Vision Pictures and state distributor China Film Group to produce this film, which is helmed by a Chinese director and is clearly geared towards local audience. This marks the first time that a big budget Hollywood studio film with an A-list lead has been tailored specifically for the Chinese market, and will likely signal a growing trend of AAA pictures directly targeting the Far East.
Next weekend we’ll see how many more hundreds of millions of dollars Rogue One makes, and watch what Sing, A Monster Calls, Assassins Creed, Why Him, Patriots Day, Why Him, and Passengers can scrape away from the mass market. Maybe this strategy of throwing a barrage of potential hits at Star Wars will be the key to unlocking Disney’s recent holiday monopoly. On the specialty market we have Martin Scorsese’s Silence, the story of two Jesuit missionaries ( Andrew Garfield and Adam Driver) who venture into feudal Japan and find themselves fighting for their lives they engage in the propagation of their faith.
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