Another $1 Billion Hit
With 32 members, the $1 billion club isn't as exclusive as it once was, and several modern tentpoles are expected to top that figure to avoid being labeled a disappointment. Luckily for Lucasfilm, all three entries of the revived Star Wars series are among those 32 films, with The Last Jedi recently passing Iron Man 3 for twelfth on the all-time charts. It's thought the latest episode in the Skywalker saga will reach $1.6 billion when it's all said and done, possibly dethroning Jurassic World for fourth on that list. As of this writing, Star Wars 8 has brought in $1.2 billion.
Related: Last Jedi Struggles In China
The Last Jedi would have been an even bigger smash if Star Wars had any kind of cultural relevance in China. The Middle Kingdom ranks as the world's second-biggest film market, but Lucasfilm has struggled mightily in the country. This can be attributed to the property first gaining mainstream popularity in the 1970s, well before China was of any value to studio executives. During Episode VIII's opening weekend in China, it had to settle for second place (losing to a local rom-com sequel) and trailing The Force Awakens and Rogue One's midnight numbers. The studio has tried to appeal to the Chinese audience over the past few years, but it's apparent their strategies are not working. They either need to retool what they're doing or accept China will always be a loss (relatively speaking).
Still, it's hard to argue with these results. The $1.2 billion translates to an $800 million profit, which is enough to bankroll four Last Jedis (reported production budget: $200 million). This is why Lucasfilm can afford to intentionally inflate the budget for Solo so Ron Howard can reshoot more than originally intended. Their tentpoles have more than lived up to the billing with box office performances that some studios can only dream of. The three films they've put out in the Disney era have recouped the $4 billion Bob Iger spent to acquire Lucasfilm, and there are still several movies remaining on the release schedule. From a pure business perspective, this has gone about as well as anyone could have hoped.
It's worth pointing out that this $1.2 billion is just from the ticket sales, and doesn't account for all of the merchandise sales that no doubt brought in a substantial amount of revenue on their own. Lucasfilm also has the Last Jedi Blu-ray release forthcoming, which will only continue to add to the bottom line. Whichever way one looks at it, Episode VIII has to please the higher-ups at the studio.
A narrative may have emerged about how The Last Jedi was a failure, but the numbers don't lie. Like all of the Star Wars films before it, The Last Jedi was a great box office success, illustrating the series is as strong as it's ever been commercially. Time will tell how the brand does when it bids farewell to the Skywalker saga, but for now, there's no topping it.
- Solo: A Star Wars Story (2018) release date: May 25, 2018
- Star Wars 9 / Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker (2019) release date: Dec 20, 2019