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Rise of Skywalker opening weekend box office falls short of Force Awakens and Last Jedi

It’s still $175 million, but the other two made more than $200 million in their debuts

rey and kylo slash a vader-like statue in rise of skywalker Image: Lucasfilm/Disney
Owen S. Good is a longtime veteran of video games writing, well known for his coverage of sports and racing games.

Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker’s opening weekend will land south of both The Force Awakens and The Last Jedi, according to domestic box office estimates Disney sent out this morning.

The Rise of Skywalker’s first weekend pulled in $175.5 million in North America, $90 million of that from the Thursday night early-bird showings and then Friday’s full premiere. Though it’s an estimated total, $175 million is still short of the top 10 among domestic opening weekends all time, behind 2016’s Captain America: Civil War.

It’s also not in the same tax bracket as Skywalker’s trilogy predecessors — The Force Awakens and The Last Jedi both took more than $200 million in their debut weekends, good for third and fourth in that (domestic) category, all time. At this point, the opening weekend top 10 is largely an intramural competition, with Disney films accounting for 13 of the top 14, and six of those in the last two years.

But $175.5 million still makes The Rise of Skywalker the third highest-grossing Star Wars movie after its first weekend in the United States, comfortably in front of Revenge of the Sith, which earned $108.4 million from its 2005 debut.

Internationally, The Rise of Skywalker added $198 million to its gross (for $373.5 million worldwide), helped by $26.8 million and $12.1 million from same-day premieres in the United Kingdom and China, respectively. By comparison, The Force Awakens scored almost $500 million ($494 million to be precise) in its first weekend worldwide, while The Last Jedi took in $437.5 million. Notably, China waited about a month after both movies’ launch dates before they premiered in that country.

Disney started out the weekend by tamping down industry-watchers’ expectations, offering a $160 million estimate for The Rise of Skywalker’s domestic box office even as third parties projected $200 million or more.

The comparatively depressed box office haul could reflect any number of audience trends, ranging from fatigue with the 42-year-old franchise; last year’s underwhelming Solo: A Star Wars Story ($148 million opening weekend worldwide, $84.4 million domestic); a critically tepid, if not thumbs-down, response to director J.J. Abrams’ vision for the franchise’s conclusion; or the querulous chatter of a divided fan base on social media.

Rotten Tomatoes currently gives The Rise of Skywalker a 54% rating among critics (meaning percentage of positive reviews), which is low enough to get the green splat icon. Moviegoers, however, give it an 86% (meaning ticket buyers who gave it at least 3.5 out of 5 stars). Metacritic’s aggregation of 59 scored reviews also lands The Rise of Skywalker at a 54; Metacritic readers rate it a 50, evenly dividing more than 1,000 user reviews between positive and negative.

“There’s certainly a palpable sense throughout The Rise of Skywalker that the creators are trying to revisit and pay off every satisfying battle and memorable moment from Skywalker Saga history all at once,” says our spoiler-free review. However, “the film feels clumsy, hurried, and above all, like an admission of creative defeat.”