After years of waiting, months of fretting about what the reshoots meant, and hour spent pouring over every trailer and TV spot, Rogue One: A Star Wars Story finally opened worldwide this past weekend to positive reviews from critics and an enthusiastic reception from fans. Between another stellar Lucasfilm marketing campaign and the strong word-of-mouth, Rogue One was poised to be another winner in 2016 for Disney, and it quickly became a commercial hit. The first Star Wars spinoff grossed $155 million domestically in its first three days and $290 million globally, already surpassing its $200 million production budget. With minimal competition on the horizon, Rogue One should have a fruitful run that goes well into 2017.
Nobody, including Disney, expected Rogue One to be in the same ballpark as Star Wars: The Force Awakens, which capitalized on a decade of anticipation and the return of original cast members to post numbers that were extremely unprecedented for the industry. As a result, Rogue One‘s barometer for success was different from the film it followed. With Lucasfilm perhaps contemplating a Star Wars future that is sans Skywalker saga, they needed Rogue One to be well-received in order for that plan to be even remotely viable. Now that Rogue One is out, how does it debut compare to the other installments of the franchise? Let’s take a look.
Of the eight live-action films theatrically released to date, Rogue One‘s $155 million start ranks second-best for the franchise as a whole, behind only The Force Awakens‘ astronomical $247.9 million. You can see the full list of original theatrical releases (not counting the various re-releases) below:
- Star Wars: The Force Awakens; $247.9 million
- Rogue One: A Star Wars Story; $155 million
- Star Wars: Episode III – Revenge of the Sith; $108.4 million
- Star Wars: Episode II – Attack of the Clones; $80 million
- Star Wars: Episode I – The Phantom Menace; $64.8 million
- Return of the Jedi; $23 million
- The Empire Strikes Back; $4.9 million
- Star Wars; $1.5 million
There are a variety of factors that explain the wide range of these figures. For starters, both Star Wars and Empire opened in a limited number of theaters (43 and 126, respectively), which would obviously skew the numbers to the lower-end of the spectrum. These grosses also do not account for inflation, and it goes without saying that a movie ticket is more expensive in 2016 than it was in 2005 when Episode III was released. Still, the list doesn’t see any change when the grosses are updated for the current time period. Here are the estimates of opening weekends for everything pre-Force Awakens, adjusted for inflation, per Box Office Mojo:
- Star Wars: Episode III – Revenge of the Sith; $145.6 million
- Star Wars: Episode II – Attack of the Clones; $118.5 million
- Star Wars: Episode I – The Phantom Menace; $109.8 million
- Return of the Jedi; $62.9 million
- The Empire Strikes Back; $15.7 million
- Star Wars; $6 million
Rogue One‘s lead over Episode III diminishes from about $46.6 million to around $9.4 million, but the order of the films remains the same. Whatever context is used, Rogue One got off to the second-strongest debut in all of Star Wars, an impressive feat considering it was a narrative that took place outside the main Skywalker saga and consisted largely of new characters. It was primarily banking on the familiarity of the Star Wars brand and the studios have to be very happy with these results. Rogue One‘s opening weekend is one many would-be tentpoles can only dream of; it’s the third-best in 2016 and the second largest December start ever. It’s no wonder why Lucasfilm shifted Star Wars: Episode VIII from May 2017 to December 2017. They now rule the holiday season.
The performance of Rogue One will no doubt encourage Disney to pursue more Star Wars spinoffs, such as Boba Fett, Obi-Wan Kenobi, and perhaps even Darth Vader. It also sets up the expectations for the next anthology movie, which is Phil Lord and Chris Miller’s young Han Solo adventure. Currently set for a May 2018 premiere, Han Solo is sandwiched between other huge tentpoles like Avengers: Infinity War and Bumblebee, so it will be interesting to see how it does commercially when it’s released. If Avatar 2 (penciled in for December 2018) keeps having problems getting off the ground, Lucasfilm may look to shift Han Solo to that window so it can maximize the project’s appeal.