'Rogue One' blows up the box office like a Death Star with $155M debut
The box office has gone galactic once again.
Following Star Wars: The Force Awakens' record-setting $248 million opening a year ago, Rogue One: A Star Wars Story obliterated the competition with a $155 million debut, according to studio estimates from comScore. The haul makes it the second-best December start in history, the 12th-largest opening of all time and the third biggest this year behind Captain America: Civil War ($179.1 million) and Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice ($166 million).
"If not for The Force Awakens, our minds would be absolutely blown by a $155 million opening in December," says comScore senior media analyst Paul Dergarabedian, who notes that before last year's Star Wars film, no December movie had ever opened with more than $100 million. (The previous Christmastime champ was 2012's The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey with $84.6 million.)
Rogue One, the first standalone Star Wars film, stars Felicity Jones and follows a scrappy Rebel Alliance unit stealing the plans for the Empire's Death Star — leading up to the events of George Lucas' original 1977 movie. Rogue got a boost from critical support (84% positive reviews at aggregate site Rotten Tomatoes) and played well with audiences (who gave it an A grade at CinemaScore).
Analysts wondered how well Rogue One would do, especially compared to The Force Awakens, but the film's quality proved it was more than marketing hype, Dergarabedian says. "You have a movie that really delivers, (and) it’s so much fun. They’ve turned virtually unknown characters into superstars literally overnight and that’s no small thing."
Disney also had the No. 2 movie with another strong outing for animated adventure Moana, which earned $11.7 million ($161.9 million to date). The T.J. Miller holiday comedy Office Christmas Party was third with $8.5 million.
The drama Collateral Beauty, which features Will Smith as an advertising executive visited by Love, Time and Death, was a bust, only mustering $7 million. While moviegoers approved (giving it an A-minus at CinemaScore), critics weren't as kind (just 14% liked it, according to Rotten Tomatoes), and it marks the worst wide-release opening in Smith's career.
Warner Bros. released the tearjerking Beauty as "total counterprogramming," Dergarabedian says, "but how do you rise above the positive noise (around) Star Wars? Everything else played second fiddle. You’ve got Rogue One looming like the Death Star over every movie."
The magical Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them rounded out the top five with $5 million ($207.7 million to date for the Harry Potter prequel).
Among awards season fare, the New England drama Manchester By the Sea went nationwide and pulled in $4.2 million ($14 million total since last month's limited release), and the musical La La Land racked up $4 million as it expanded to 200 locations, with an impressive $20,000 per-theater average.
"This is the calm before the storm," Dergarabedian says of La La Land's "brilliant" rollout. "There are so many people who still don’t have this movie available yet who can’t wait to see it."
After the movie opens nationally Christmas Day, "suddenly it’s going to become part of the culture and the conversation."
Final figures are expected Monday.