Star Wars: The Last Jedi should go down as one of the most commercially successful films of 2017, but it likely will not reach the high marks of its direct predecessor, The Force Awakens. In 2015, Lucasfilm brought the galaxy far, far away back to the big screen with unprecedented results. Riding waves of positive buzz and arriving in theaters 10 years after Revenge of the Sith, Episode VII rewrote the box office record book with $247.9 million in its opening weekend. The film went on to earn a whopping $936.6 million domestically, blowing Avatar‘s U.S. numbers out of the water.
With the brand as popular as ever and Last Jedi earning raves across the board, many viewers are wondering how the sequel will compare to Force Awakens from a financial sense. Estimates so far have pegged a haul of $200+ million in Episode VIII‘s first three days, which would make it just the fourth movie in history to reach that plateau in a single weekend. Though that is slightly lower than Force Awakens, there’s no denying it’s a highly impressive figure and one that’s very realistic, all things considered.
Even if The Last Jedi “only” grosses an even $200 million in its opening frame, nobody should pass that off as a disappointment of any kind. As stated above, The Force Awakens was a once-in-a-lifetime cinematic event; the first new Star Wars movie in over a decade that marked the return of the original trilogy cast and kicked off a whole new era for the franchise. As a Disney subsidiary, Lucasfilm got in the business of annual tentpole releases, which meant a fresh Star Wars film would be coming out each year. The exact circumstances of The Force Awakens‘ release cannot be replicated, unless the studio deliberately starves the marketplace for a prolonged period of time. So while The Last Jedi is undeniably the crown jewel of the holiday movie season, its sheen of being “new Star Wars” isn’t as shiny.
Another factor that should prevent Episode VIII from matching (or bettering) the numbers of Force Awakens is the film itself. This is not an indictment of Last Jedi‘s quality, as many consider it to be one of the finest Star Wars chapters yet. What could end up “hurting” it is the runtime, which stands at 152 minutes, the longest in the franchise’s history. Because of The Last Jedi‘s epic length, theaters presumably will be forced to book fewer screenings daily when compared to Force Awakens or Rogue One – both of which clocked in at slightly over two hours. Obviously, multiplexes will schedule as many screenings as they can, but there is a limit, even with Disney’s outrageous demands.
This is fairly standard for the industry. Whenever a franchise installment puts up giant box office figures, its sequel typically sees some sort of decline. Christopher Nolan’s The Dark Knight made $534.8 million in theaters, while The Dark Knight Rises brought in $448.1 (despite actually having a higher opening weekend). In 2012, The Avengers grossed $623.3 million domestically, but Age of Ultron could muster “just” $459 million. Given the heights Force Awakens reached, it would be borderline impossible for any movie (even its sequel) to rival its all-time marks. Lucasfilm probably prepared for this turn of events and won’t mind if Last Jedi comes up a little “short.” They did, after all, give Rian Johnson a trilogy, so they were certainly pleased with the results.
For our prediction, we’ll say The Last Jedi will gross $215 million in its opening weekend.
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