The saga came to an end this weekend. No, not the saga of Cats memes, but Star Wars , which concluded with The Rise of Skywalker. This final entry in the saga grossed $175.5 million this weekend, a massive sum that gives it the third-biggest opening weekend ever in December and the twelfth biggest opening weekend ever for a movie in history.
All but one of the Disney Star Wars movies have now opened to $155+ million, which makes the box office failure of Solo: A Star Wars Story all the more puzzling. However, despite $175.5 million being a massive figure no matter how you slice it, there are some worrisome signs around this opening weekend in terms of its long-term box office viability.
The Rise of Skywalker is the first Star Wars movie (exempting that 2008 Clone Wars film) not to get some kind of A-grade from audiences polled by the CinemaScore service. Garnering a B+ grade from viewers, it seems this mixed word-of-mouth may be a factor into why this title was so frontloaded over the weekend. The Rise of Skywalker made a little more than half of its opening weekend from its $90 million opening day.
Even The Force Awakens, with a larger $119.1 million opening day, was able to do more than double that figure for its $247.9 million opening weekend while The Last Jedi was able to do 2.1 times its opening day over the course of its opening weekend.
Now, a more frontloaded opening weekend doesn’t inherently make The Rise of Skywalker a flop or indicate that it’s doomed in the weeks ahead. Perhaps the front-loaded nature was due to other factors beyond potentially more muted word-of-mouth than its predecessor. We’ll find out in the weeks to come if the day-to-day frontloaded nature of The Rise of Skywalker was simply an anomaly or a long-term indicator of its mixed word-of-mouth.
The good news for Episode IX is that titles released this close to Christmas tend to hold well, just look at how Aquaman (released one year ago this weekend) ended up doing five times its opening weekend. At the very least, The Rise of Skywalker should still get to an impressive $550 million domestically.
Moving onto holdovers, Jumanji: The Next Level fell 56% this frame, about what you’d expect from a movie opening one weekend before Star Wars. Taking in another $26.1 million, Jumanji has already grossed $101.9 million before the major holidays get underway. In third place, Frozen II held extremely well with only a 36% fifth-weekend decline to add $12.3 million to its domestic haul that now stands at a whopping $386.5 million.
Oh God, the puns we can do for Cats. It hacked up a box office hairball. It wasn’t the cat’s meow. It didn’t make many memories for moviegoers. You get the picture. This controversial musical opened to just $6.5 million this weekend, an anemic opening for a live-action musical, coming in only $200,000 ahead of the bow for Popeye from nearly forty years ago. True, it opened to just $2 million less than The Greatest Showman from two years ago, but Greatest Showman burned off demand with a Wednesday launch.
Plus, that title had one-of-a-kind word-of-mouth that Cats, judging by its C+ CinemaScore, doesn’t have. Incoming family movie competition from Spies in Disguise and Little Women is also likely to have a negative impact on this Tom Hooper directorial effort’s long-term box office prospects.
Since 2011, any musical that’s opened at the end of December has managed to gross over $140 million domestically. Why didn’t Cats, barring some kind of miraculous Greatest Showman resurgence, follow suit? Well, that’s partially due to Cats not being as beloved of a Broadway musical as, say, Les Miserables or Into the Woods among modern audiences.
Heck, Cats has become a punchline in pop culture in the last few decades and the marketing didn’t help reverse that reputation. The fact that there’s so much competition for family audiences right now in the domestic marketplace further neutered its box office potential.
Before we move onto another wide release newcomer, let’s make a quick detour into holdover territory with Knives Out, which had the smallest weekend-to-weekend decline of any film in the top ten. Easing just 33% this weekend, this murder mystery grossed another $6.1 million for an $89.5 million domestic total to date.
Bombshell expanded into wide release this weekend with a $5 million bow. Neither a good or bad debut, this one’s box office fate will really be determined by how it holds up in the next two weeks. Right now, it’s only 12% ahead of the poor bow of Richard Jewell from last weekend and behind the three-day opening weekend of The Big Short. Bombshell still has time to rebound, especially if it manages to score some major Oscar love, but it’s starting off on a weaker note for sure.
Richard Jewell fell 45% this weekend for a second-frame gross of $2.56 million and a ten-day domestic gross of $9.5 million. Queen & Slim dropped 48% for a fourth-weekend gross of $1.85 million and a current domestic haul of $36.5 million. Worth mentioning that Queen & Slim’s $1,716 fourth-weekend per-theater average is only slightly behind the opening weekend per-theater average of Cats.
In ninth place we find Black Christmas, which fell 57% to gross another $1.8 million for a domestic total of $7.2 million. That actually ties this horror holdover with the sixth-weekend gross of Ford v. Ferrari, which also took in $1.8 million this weekend. A 56% drop from last weekend, James Mangold’s racing drama has now grossed $101.9 million. Right outside the top ten was A Beautiful Day In The Neighborhood, which dropped 60% to gross another $1.3 million for a decent $52.4 million domestic haul.
Parasite continues to hold like a champ, easing just 27% to gross another $460,000 for a domestic total to date of $21.2 million. On the other hand, Dark Waters fell a massive 83% this weekend to gross another $312,000 for a $10 million domestic total. A Hidden Life expanded into 106 locations and grossed $250,000 for a domestic total of $322,143.
Meanwhile, Uncut Gems grossed another $232,479 from 5 locations for a per-theater average of $46,495 and a domestic total of $1 million. Jojo Rabbit’s $186,000 gross this weekend was enough to make it one of the rare 2019 limited releases to crack $20 million domestically, it has now grossed $20.3 million.
Finally, Invisible Life debuted this weekend to $8,364 at 2 locations for a per-theater average of $4,182, an underwhelming bow that continued the box office woes of Amazon Studios.
The top ten movies this weekend grossed $239.6 million, bringing the monthly haul for December 2019 up to $610 million. If December 2019 can manage to surpass the $1.189 billion monthly gross of December 2016, then the top three Decembers in history will all belong to months with a new Star Wars in theaters.
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