Weekend Box Office (December 15 - 17, 2017)
THIS WEEKEND Oddly enough, Disney and Fox face off at the box office with new releases that open on the same day, though dollar figures will be as different as they get.
The Lucasfilm empire is back with its latest tentpole release with Star Wars: The Last Jedi, the eighth proper episode in the saga. The PG-13 film has a mammoth built-in audience which predictably will be filling up multiplexes this weekend. Tickets have been on sale for several weeks so the new chapter has already absorbed a massive amount of business for the first few days. Reviews have been outstanding and are more than good enough to pull in ticket buyers of all types.
The most direct comp will be, of course, Star Wars: The Force Awakens which bowed to a record $248M this same weekend two years ago. That record still has not been broken, and no film has even come close to that quarter-billion level. Likely, it will stay that way for now. But Last Jedi should open a few notches below. TFA had over three decades of anticipation as fans had been waiting to see the original characters again in a new story. Jedi is essentially the third Star Wars movie in three years so it's not as special. Some of the general audience that got swept away by the hoopla in 2015 will take a pass this time.
Also fan favorite Harrison Ford is not here anymore so that will be a negative. On the plus side, Jedi has much more Luke Skywalker. Also the Carrie Fisher factor exists as there is a sentimental reason for many to see her last time as Leia. There are some who were disappointed by TFA and may sit this one out. And franchise erosion is common, even for the biggest properties. Age of Ultron opened 8% smaller than the first Avengers even though it was expected to be bigger.
Marketing muscle has been delivered by the Disney machine. Competition from the rest of the top ten should be in the same $50M neighborhood as it was for Force Awakens and last year's Rogue One from the same weekend. Opening in a December record 4,232 locations including premium-priced formats, Star Wars: The Last Jedi may debut to around $212M this weekend. A domestic final north of $700M should result.
Likely to be far, far away in second place this weekend is the new animated entry Ferdinand which will collect a small fraction of the amount that Last Jedi will take in. Fox is going head to head against the Force not so much to beat it, but to have an alternative in the marketplace for families with younger children and to coast through the entire holiday season picking up cash in the long term. Reviews are good but Coco is still a force at the box office having been number one for the last three weeks. A modest launch followed by good legs may result. Opening in over 3,600 locations, Ferdinand could gross about $15M this weekend.
With Jedi commanding everyone's attention plus Ferdinand taking some kids out of the equation, Coco should see it sharp decline in its numbers. A 50% fall would leave the Pixar hit with about $9M for the frame and $150M overall.
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Watch the trailer for Avengers: Infinity War.
LAST YEAR The spin-off hit Rogue One: A Star Wars Story proved that the fan base is there with a huge $155.1M opening weekend which was the third best of the whole year on its way to $532.2M domestic and $1.05B worldwide. Disney ruled second place too as Moana held well with $12.7M. Paramount followed with Office Christmas Party at $8.6M. Will Smith was ignored as his new film Collateral Beauty debuted poorly with $7.1M while Fantastic Beasts rounded out the top five with $5.1M.
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 14, 2017 at 3:35PM ET
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