Rogue One Powers Up the Holiday Box Office
By John Hamann
December 18, 2016
So, the Thursday preview and the Friday box office were bigger than expected, so the question became how front-loaded Rogue One would be. On its first Saturday, The Force Awakens fell 42% from its Thursday/Friday; The Hobbit, on the other hand, fell 25% from Thursday/Friday to Saturday. BOP's Tim Briody predicted a Rogue One opening weekend at $150.8 million, which would mean a significant drop-off on Saturday. The Saturday number was reported at $46.4 million, off a large but respectable 35% from its Thursday/Friday. Rogue One was set to enter the top 15 openers of all-time and become the second biggest December opener of all-time, with only its big brother pushing it down to second.
The opening weekend for Rogue One was reported this morning at a sizzling $155 million, which means that within a year of opening two new releases, the Star Wars franchise had combined opening frames of $400 million. The only franchise that comes close is The Avengers, what with the first Avengers film opening to $207.4 million and Age of Ultron opening to $191.3 million. The difference, though, is that both Avengers films opened in May, not December. Winter is supposed to be about legs at the box office, and not opening weekends, but Disney has turned that notion on its head. Disney raised eyebrows when Bob Iger purchased the rights to the Star Wars franchise for $4.1 billion (half cash, half Disney stock). If one looks at this from George Lucas's perspective, he earned approximately $2 billion in cash from that deal, and received 40 million shares of Disney stock, which in 2012 was valued at approximately $60 per share, and today is worth $104 dollars per share.
The Rogue One opening weekend finishes as the 12th biggest opener of all time, but that's just on the domestic side. After only two days of overseas release, Rogue One had already earned $33 million, and finished the weekend with an overseas take of $135.5 million. Some say that the Gareth Edwards film cost $200 million to make, which would normally mean it would need a $600 million worldwide gross, but given the massive advertising campaign, the global gross would likely need to clear $700 million minimum, which should be no problem at all. Why? Once again, Disney was very careful (safe?) with its asset, to the point of going to some fairly significant reshoots to ensure the quality was there. Both critics and audiences felt it was good, as Rogue One currently has a fresh rating of 84% (44 negative reviews out of a possible 280), and an A Cinemascore. In my opinion, these scores were key to keeping momentum going for the franchise. The Force Awakens also earned an A Cinemascore, but reviews were off the 92% fresh rating that the JJ Abrams film earned. Some believe that The Force Awakens reviews were driven by nostalgia, and upon a second review, maybe TFA wasn't quite all that.
Disney again made some smart moves with story structure and marketing of Rogue One. Like The Force Awakens, the lead in Rogue One is female, which only serves to further expand the demographic of these films towards younger females, something that is key to the overall success of the franchise. Casting an award-winning actor like Felicity Jones in the lead was smart as well, as that is where the film is carried. Add to that a stellar international cast that includes Mads Mikkelsen, Donnie Yen and Diego Luna, and this film will only become more profitable overseas.