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‘Star Wars: The Last Jedi’ is Sinking Too Fast at the Box Office

The latest ‘Star Wars’ episode is experiencing a much greater slowdown than ‘The Force Awakens.’
The Last Jedi
By  · Published on December 26th, 2017

The latest ‘Star Wars’ episode is experiencing a much greater slowdown than ‘The Force Awakens.’

For some fans, what Star Wars: The Last Jedi does with their franchise is like what the PC police did to the “Merry Christmas” greeting (which in both cases is nothing, despite the complaints), so it’s not surprising that Rian Johnson’s Episode VIII is underperforming at the box office. The movie had the second-best Christmas Day gross ever yesterday with $32.2M, but over the prior three days it went from having the second-best opening of all time ($220M) — or fourth-best if we take inflation into account — to having only the 14th-best second-weekend gross ever ($68.5M), or 36th-best when considering inflation.

The significant drop (68.9%) can partly be blamed on Christmas Eve, a day when fewer people go to the movies and theaters close early. This year, the pre-holiday date of December 24th landed on Sunday, and The Last Jedi grossed only $14.6M on the occasion. Comparatively, last year Christmas Eve was on a Saturday, and Rogue One: A Star Wars Story made only $15.3M at the time (its second-weekend gross was only 42nd best, adjusted, with only $65M). Christmas Eve on a Sunday is worse, though, and a fairly rare handicap for weekend box office, as the last time December 24th was on a Sunday was 11 years ago.

Still, the holidays aside, The Last Jedi is sinking faster than it should be. Normally we should be applauding a movie for making $397.3M in just 11 days, but next to its “Skywalker Saga” predecessor, Star Wars: The Force Awakens, the new installment is not running strong. The Last Jedi opened about 14% lower than The Force Awakens ($220M vs. $254.5M), but at the 11-day point The Last Jedi is down 32%. The sequel has grossed $397.3M, which is $189.3M less than The Force Awakens‘ $586.5M (adjusted) after the same amount of time two years ago.

You can see the slowing of the curve best when comparing different markers during the first 10 days. First, let’s look at the non-inflation numbers: The Force Awakens has the number-one spot with The Last Jedi at number two through the first seven days of release. Then, on the eighth day, The Last Jedi fell to third place, below Jurassic World. On the 10th day (which for The Last Jedi was Christmas Eve), it also fell below The Avengers. Adjusted for inflation, the new Star Wars movie was already in fourth place below those titles and remained such until the seventh day, when it fell to fifth, additionally behind The Dark Knight. Christmas Eve had nothing to do with that lag.

And it’s not just in North America that The Last Jedi is falling further away from The Force Awakens. The new movie had a fifth-place worldwide debut of $450.8M (foreign figures are never adjusted for inflation, by the way) compared to The Force Awakens‘ second-place opening of $529M. That’s a 15% difference. After 12 days (both movies opened two days earlier overseas), The Last Jedi is up to a $777.6M global total, whereas The Force Awakens had reached $1.09B in the same stretch. That’s a 29% difference, pretty analogous to what’s going on in the domestic chart.

Why is this happening? Is it the backlash from diehard fans and genuine disfavor among much of the general audience creating poor word-of-mouth? Is there not enough repeat business? Should Disney and Lucasfilm be concerned? The answer to the last question should be in the negative. Not for the continuation of the “Skywalker Saga,” which only has one more episode left (2019’s Episode IX). Not for next summer’s Solo: A Star Wars Story, which features the return, in younger form, of the character with arguably the biggest draw of the franchise. And hopefully not for the Rian Johnson-led future trilogy, which shouldn’t disappoint anyone since it’s starting fresh without any character expectations or questions in need of answering.

The Last Jedi is still performing much better than the previous Star Wars movie, last year’s Rogue One, which had grossed $323.2M domestic (adjusted) by its 11th day. That movie wound up with just over a billion dollars worldwide, around half of what The Force Awakens did. Comparatively it was a disappointment, but there’s no denying it was enough of a hit even for this franchise. And at this point, it was only at a $600M global total. So, The Last Jedi is somewhere between the prior two Star Wars movies overall. Even if it’s veering closer and closer to Rogue One as it goes on, the Star Wars brand remains generally a huge success.

Here is the top 10 box office for the weekend, plus the estimated totals for the four-day frame with Christmas Day included (new titles in bold, domestic totals so far in parentheses):

1. Star Wars: The Last Jedi – $68.5M / $100.7M ($397.3M)
2. Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle – $36.4M / $52.2M ($68.7M)
3. Pitch Perfect 3 – $20M / $25.6M ($25.6M)
4. The Greatest Showman – $8.8M / $14M ($18.6M)
5. Ferdinand – $7.3M / $9.7M ($29.2M)
6. Coco – $5.2M / $7.4M ($163.5M)
7. Downsizing – $5M / $7.3M ($7.3M)
8. Darkest Hour – $3.9M / $5.4M ($8.3M)
9. Father Figures – $3.3M / $4.9M ($4.9M)
10. The Shape of Water – $3M / $4.3M ($8.9M)

All box office figures via Box Office Mojo

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Christopher Campbell began writing film criticism and covering film festivals for a zine called Read, back when a zine could actually get you Sundance press credentials. He's now a Senior Editor at FSR and the founding editor of our sister site Nonfics. He also regularly contributes to Fandango and Rotten Tomatoes and is the President of the Critics Choice Association's Documentary Branch.