https://www.forbes.com/sites/scottmende ... 99fd5c3d32The Rise of Skywalker will only make it past $500 million domestic because most of its competition either moved to 2020 or crumbled. And the Star Wars series is now, in terms of creating excitement and interest, back to square one even after five movies and $5.9 billion in global grosses.
Lucasfilm and Walt Disney’s Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker has earned $491 million after exactly a month in domestic theaters. That’s after an $8.3 million (-45%) fifth-weekend gross, meaning it’ll probably earn around $10.41 million for the Fri-Mon holiday and end tomorrow with $494.05 million after 32 days in theaters. It’ll end its run between Beauty and the Beast ($504 million in 2017) and Rogue One: A Star Wars Story ($529 million in 2016/2017). With middling reviews, comparatively indifferent audience polling and a lack of buzzy “must see that again” moments, Rise of Skywalker’s domestic and global cume (now at $1.025 billion) could have been much worse.
Warner Bros.’ Wonder Woman 1984, MGM and Universal’s No Time to Die, Paramount’s Sonic the Hedgehog and Fox/Disney’s Death on the Nile fled November/December 2019 for 2020. Among the post-Frozen 2/pre-Star Wars releases, only Sony’s Jumanji: The Next Level clicked, legging its way past $275 million domestic (and $700 million worldwide) from a $59 million Fri-Sun launch. Universal’s Black Christmas and Warner Bros.’ Richard Jewell both crashed with $5 million opening weekends. And the two films opening alongside The Rise of Skywalker, Universal’s Cats and Lionsgate’s Bombshell (in its wide release expansion) both barely cracked $5 million on their opening weekends.
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Fox/Disney’s Spies in Disguise (now at $130 million global) won’t come anywhere close to Ferdinand’s $290 million global cume, while Cats sure as hell won’t approach Fox’s The Greatest Showman ($441 million in 2017) or Universal’s Sing ($571 million in 2016) or even Paramount’s Daddy’s Home ($250 million in 2015) or Universal’s Pitch Perfect 3 ($185 million). Sony’s Jumanji: The Next Level is huge, but it wasn’t quite the (comparatively speaking) leggy monster as the $404 million domestic/$962 million worldwide-grossing Welcome to the Jungle.
Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker had much of its pre-release competition hitch a ride to the first half of 2020. The “big” films that opened before it, concurrently and after it (we can debate whether the clearly successful Little Women and Uncut Gems were “big” movies), almost all disappointed or outright flopped. Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker actually faced less competition than The Last Jedi, along with a friendlier release schedule. And yet, here we are.
Rise of Skywalker’s biggest competition was Disney’s own Frozen II. The animated mega-smash (it has passed $1.4 billion worldwide and is now the tenth-biggest movie ever) actually had several story similarities to Rise of Skywalker. Frozen II also had a narrative that seemed patched together at random, or perhaps written to match up with previously solidified song choices, the character arcs still packed a punch and the emotional beats still hit appropriately hard. Maybe Frozen II legged out because Star Wars IX didn’t quite click. Maybe Frozen II was strong enough to become “the danger” overseas to foreign audiences indifferent to Star Wars.
Rise of Skywalker’s very good/excellent $177 million domestic debut wasn’t necessarily cause for alarm, even with that B+ Cinemascore grade and 1.96x weekend multiplier. The film earned $29 million on day four, dropping less from Sunday ($40 million) than did even The Force Awakens on its first Monday/day four in December of 2015. It earned another $20.2 million on day five and $32 million on Christmas day, giving it a hopeful $259 million six-day cume. That set the stage for a possible over/under $90 million second-weekend gross. It wasn’t until its first Friday, when it dived 70% ($26 million) that the glow wore off.
It fell a harsh 59% on weekend two, but the second Mon-Thurs weekday frame didn’t really play that much like a “holiday blitz” period. With 2020 beginning in earnest, Star Wars IX dropped 53%, which was one of the biggest third-weekend drops ever for a $100 million-plus opener. Its 56% weekend-four drop was the second-worst weekend-four drop ever behind the 61% plunge for Batman v Superman, which is not the comparison you want. If Wonder Woman 1984 and No Time to Die had opened in November and/or had Cats and Spies in Disguise connected, well, this might be an even grimmer conversation.
The mediocre (for Christmas) legs for The Rise of Skywalker were about The Rise of Skywalker, as opposed to “Star Wars fatigue” or any adverse reaction to The Last Jedi or even Solo (which was more ignored than disliked). It opened pretty damn well and held strong until Christmas. This wasn’t a Star Trek Nemesis-like collapse ($43 million domestic from a $18 million debut in 2002), but a comparative lack of November/December competition prevented a collapse on par with Jurassic Park (from $619 million for Lost World to $383 million for Jurassic Park III) or The Matrix (from $742 million for Matrix Reloaded to $427 million for Matrix Revolutions).
Yes, we’re talking about five Star Wars movies that have earned around $5.87 billion worldwide in just over four years on a combined budget of around $1.256 billion. But since Disney wishes to continue this franchise indefinitely, Dawn of Justice ($873 million from a $424 million global debut) really is an apt comparison. And like that Zack Snyder epic (which, ironically, has aged pretty well as a one-off gonzo bananas apocalyptic Elseworld), the studio is left with a poorly-reviewed movie that made a ton of money but still left the brand/franchise in a ditch in terms of maintaining forward momentum.
The mixed reception of Batman v Superman left Warner Bros. scrambling in terms of “fixing” its DC Films brand, for better (letting Patty Jenkins do whatever she wanted with Wonder Woman) or worse (fatally rejiggering Suicide Squad and Justice League). Dawn of Justice put the whole game plan for the DC Comics universe back to square one. The Rise of Skywalker was the Disney Star Wars equivalent of Justice League, a heavily retooled and Frankenstein-ed film that still failed to gross more than a random stand-alone offering (Man of Steel for DC, Rogue One for Lucasfilm).
Disney is now also at “square one” in terms of how to get audiences and fans excited about Star Wars movies again. Now, that was always going to be a challenge after the Skywalker Saga wrapped up, since the next Star Wars movies presumably won’t involve the core Skywalker/Solo characters. But Disney’s Star Wars franchise is now A) on the defensive, B) in a position of having much of their prior goodwill erased as a result of a deeply compromised (and seemingly crafted to appease YouTube trolls and/or potentially disingenuous alt-right mobs) “series finale.”
That’s the cruel irony of all of this. The Force Awakens ($2.068 billion), Rogue One ($1.056 billion), The Last Jedi ($1.333 billion), Solo ($394 million) and The Rise of Skywalker earned around $5.88 billion worldwide, pushing the whole Star Wars series (counting reissues but not accounting for inflation) past the $10 billion mark. Alas, all of that goodwill and earned credit, because even Solo got decent reviews and positive audience scores, has been more-or-less washed away in the aftermath of The Rise of Skywalker. As my father likes to say, “trust is a must or your game’s a bust.”
Had they at least made Rise of Skywalker a “yes, and…” sequel to Last Jedi and Force Awakens, or at least given us a “Skywalker Saga finale” that worked as meat-and-potatoes entertainment regardless of its story choices, Lucasfilm and Disney would be better off. They now in a position where Disney’s Star Wars franchise is a $5.9 billion wash. It made money and earned some new fans, but it’s now, like DC Films after Batman v Superman, going to have to start from scratch in terms of making Star Wars exciting again. In an attempt to preserve the past, Disney may have just killed the future.
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I've said for a while now that Disney have effectively traded short-term profit for long-term harm, and the fans that wanted a short-term nostalgia-fix have also helped to damage the appeal of the Star Wars brand and story-telling potential in the future.
The utter failure of SW to appeal to new demographics ( tanked in China and female audience are turning away from the franchise) is a result of fanboys acting like gate-keepers and refusing to allow the Star Wars franchise to move in a new and organic direction that can broaden its appeal.