Box Office Prediction: Managing Rogue One Expectations

Star Wars: The Force Awakens was unprecedented in its box office prowess. We analyze Rogue One's prospects and set realistic goals for the spinoff.

Rogue One Star Wars Box Office

Nearly one year after Star Wars: The Force Awakens set the box office ablaze by grossing $2 billion worldwide, moviegoers are about to embark on another journey to the galaxy far, far away. Rogue One: A Star Wars Story opens worldwide this week, and the consensus is that Disney is now 2/2 when it comes to making quality Star Wars films. Despite the numerous issues director Gareth Edwards and company faced during production, many are in agreement that the first standalone anthology film is a thrilling, entertaining ride that expands upon the franchise in exciting ways.

Because of the strong word-of-mouth (and the fact that Rogue One is a Star Wars film), the movie is poised to be the latest box office smash for the Mouse House in 2016, adding to what are already record-shattering numbers. Star Wars 7 was quite unprecedented in what it accomplished; not only was it the first film to debut with $100 million in December, it grossed $247.9 million in its first three days. Force Awakens didn't just top Avatar's all-time domestic mark, it almost reached $1 billion in the U.S. alone. Those figures far surpassed even the rosiest expectations, but that obviously is not a realistic standard for the next installments in the franchise. In a special edition of the box office prediction, we try to find the proper expectations for Rogue One.

Even if Force Awakens was being followed by Star Wars: Episode VIII, it would be unwise to think Star Wars 7's totals could be met or surpassed. That film arrived with 10 years of pent-up anticipation and featured the return of beloved original trilogy characters. The conditions in which Episode VII was released cannot be replicated, so simply being second on the slate put Rogue One at a "disadvantage" in terms of comparing grosses. Additionally, the spinoff sports an ensemble cast of mostly new players, with a bit role from Darth Vader being the lone exception. The Sith Lord has been featured in marketing, but Rogue One does not focus on him, so the villain is downplayed in the trailers and TV spots. Fans are eager to return to the universe, but since Rogue One is set outside the main saga, it will be interesting to see how it performs.

Star Wars Rogue One - Jyn and Cassian

At the same time, the film is still in excellent shape. When tickets were first made available at the end of November, Rogue One quickly became the top pre-selling movie of 2016, and currently ranks as Fandango's second-highest pre-selling title of all-time (behind only Force Awakens). That illustrates the property is very much in high demand, especially after all the goodwill Star Wars 7 generated. Because of this, Rogue One is on track to have one of the biggest opening weekends of the year. The most current projections are in the $120 million - $150 million range. If the film reaches the high end of those estimates, it would be the third-highest debut in 2016, behind only Captain America: Civil War and Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice. Based on all the factors, it should easily get there.

Besides the positive reviews, Rogue One is also positioned in a nice window where it features very little competition. The only other wide releases this weekend are the Will Smith-led drama Collateral Beauty (which has been widely panned) and awards contender Manchester by the Sea, which is expanding to 1,203 locations. Neither poses a threat to Rogue One's prospects and could struggle to find an audience - particularly since multiplexes have a plethora of Star Wars screenings scheduled each day during the early part of its run. The bigger questions about Rogue One's draw loom in its second weekend, when it will face PG-13 genre pictures Passengers and Assassin's Creed, but it should still remain comfortably at the top of the charts for an extended period of time.

Earlier this year, Disney smartly downplayed Rogue One's expectations, saying that from the get-go they never expected the anthology film to perform in the same ballpark as The Force Awakens. They understood that Rogue One's barometer for success was much different than its direct predecessor, and if it doesn't make $200+ million in its opening weekend, viewers shouldn't deem it as a "failure." Rogue One is set up to be one of the highest-grossing films of 2016, and could very well challenge Finding Dory for the #1 position when it's all said and done. Few (if any) films can rival what Force Awakens did, so Rogue One and even Star Wars 8 might be better indicators of the series' box office prowess moving forward.

Our prediction: Rogue One: A Star Wars Story should gross $150 million in its opening weekend.

Source: Box Office

Key Release Dates
  • Star Wars: Rogue One / Rogue One: A Star Wars Story (2016) release date: Dec 16, 2016
  • Star Wars 8/Star Wars: The Last Jedi (2017) release date: Dec 15, 2017
  • Solo: A Star Wars Story (2018) release date: May 25, 2018
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