erik lundegaard

Sunday January 05, 2020

Box Office: ‘Rise of Skywalker’ Does Great for Anything But a Star Wars Movie

The first movie of each trilogy also has the biggest box office for each trilogy. 

What do the following verbs have in common? 

  • Strike
  • Return
  • Attack
  • Revenge
  • Awaken
  • Rise

Yep. They‘re the verbs in the subtitles of the various “Star Wars” sequels. Just tossing in for no reason. I guess for their sameness. Although not quite, right? The originals and the prequels, sure, they’re the same (strike/attack, return/revenge), but the new ones are less about combat and more about ... growth? Self-improvement? They‘re positive, and mostly about the heroes. They’re selfies, befitting the age.  

“Rise” is the latest and it hasn't exactly done that at the box office. Here's a list of the nine SW movies ranked by domestic box office and adjusted for inflation:

YEAR MOVIE ADJ. GROSS ANN. ALL-TIME
1977 Star Wars $1,590,607,135 1 2
2015 The Force Awakens $965,467,843 1 11
1980 The Empire Strikes Back $876,078,543 1 13
1983 Return of the Jedi $839,950,442 1 17
1999 The Phantom Menace $806,487,053 1 19
2017 The Last Jedi $603,618,885 1 44
2005 Revenge of the Sith $529,768,678 1 70
2002 Attack of the Clones $477,473,705 2 99
2019 The Rise of Skywalker $450,796,223* 3* 110*

* Still in theaters, yo

Nothing's coming close to the first one again but “Force” muscled to the No. 2 slot in 2015. Since then, a downhill slog. Most franchises  would take such a slog. In terms of the canon, “Revenge of the Sith” grossed a piffle in 2005, but it was still the No. 1 movie of the year. Only the second of the prequels, on the heels of the disappointing, antiseptic “Phantom Menace,” wasn't the No. 1 movie of its year, and it still finished No. 2—to the first “Spider-Man” movie. “Skywalker” also won't be No. 1, since another superhero movie, “Avengers: Endgame” is in a galaxy far, far away at $858 million. “Skywalker” needs another $93 mil just to reach “The Lion King”'s $543.6 in second place. Can it do it?

Maybe. Here's box office for the three recent films after 17 days—along with the final domestic totals for the first two:

YEAR MOVIE 17 DAYS DOM. GROSS
2015 The Force Awakens $742,208,942 $936,662,225
2017 The Last Jedi $517,218,368 $620,181,382
2019 The Rise of Skywalker $450,796,441  

By Day 17, “Force” had grossed about 79% of its total, “Jedi” about 83%. If we assume, say, 80% for “Skywalker,” that's another $90 mil. It‘ll be close.

Of course, domestic box office matters less these days than worldwide, so how is “Skywalker” doing there? Even worse. “Force” earned $2 billion worldwide, “Last Jedi” dropped to $1.3, “Skywalker” is at $918 million. It’s ninth for the year, and I think it‘ll wind up fourth. New territory for “Star Wars.” 

So what makes a franchise lose 3/4 of a billion dollars and a lot of interest? Too many, too soon? And too similar? Or just not interesting enough? All “Star Wars” movies drop, as we’ve seen above, but that's not true for other franchises. The most popular “Avengers” was the last.

None of which matters much to Disney since it owns both franchises. Want to see something sad? These were the studios for the top five films of the year when “Star Wars” was released:

  1. 20th Century Fox (Star Wars)
  2. Universal (Smokey and the Bandit)
  3. Columbia (Close Encounters)
  4. Paramount (Saturday Night Fever)
  5. United Artists (A Bridge Too Far)

And this year:

  1. Disney (Avengers: Endgame)
  2. Disney (The Lion King)
  3. Disney (Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker)
  4. Disney (Frozen II)
  5. Disney (Toy Story 4)

The No. 1 animated movie in 1977 was Disney's “Pete's Dragon” and it was at No. 11—several notches below “Annie Hall.” We were so much older then; we're younger than that now.

Posted at 03:03 PM on Sunday January 05, 2020 in category Movies - Box Office  
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Twitter: @ErikLundegaard

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