Showing Force: Star Wars 'Rogue One' Eyes $140M Opening

Media & Advertising Reuters

Disney-Lucasfilm's "Rogue One: A Star Wars Story" is dominating the domestic box with a huge $140 million opening weekend coming into view, early estimates showed Friday.

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Disney (DIS) issued a range of $135 million to $140 million, noting that weather continues to be an unknown factor in some parts of the country. The number includes $29 million in Thursday night business -- the biggest Thursday preview of the year and the seventh-largest of all time. The studio is estimating an opening day near $70 million, including the $29 million preview figure.

Recent forecasts had estimated this week that "Rogue One" would open to between $120 million to $150 million domestically this weekend at 4,157 sites. Rivals issued estimates Friday of as high as $160 million.

Meanwhile, Will Smith's drama "Collateral Beauty" is showing little traction with early estimates of a weekend at under $8 million at 3,028 locations

The film also took in $33 million in its first two days in international markets and should wind up the weekend with $150 million from foreign territories when it opens in nearly every major moviegoing market except China and South Korea.

"Rogue One" will put up the second-largest December domestic opening in history, behind last year's $248 million debut of "Star Wars: Episode VII -- The Force Awakens" on the same weekend. "The Force Awakens" took in an astounding $57 million in Thursday night previews.

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Should it hit $140 million in North America this weekend, "Rogue One" will wind up 17th on the list of the North American launches of all time. "The Twilight Saga -- Breaking Dawn Part 2" is 16th with $141 million. At $160 million, it would be 10th on list after "The Dark Knight Rises," which is ninth with $160.9 million.

"Rogue One" is the eighth film in the Star Wars franchise but the first to step outside the narrative of the other seven films in a standalone story set shortly before the events of 1977's original "Star Wars" -- though Darth Vader, the Galactic Empire and The Death Star remain key elements. Felicity Jones stars with Diego Luna, Ben Mendelsohn, Mads Mikkelsen, Donnie Yen, Alan Tudyk and Forest Whitaker.

"Rogue One" follows a group of rebel spies trying to steal the schematics for the Empire's Death Star. It's directed by Gareth Edwards ("Godzilla") from a script by Chris Weitz and Tony Gilroy.

Disney is launching "Rogue One" accompanied by enormous expectations, four years after it acquired Lucasfilm from founder George Lucas in October, 2012, for $4 billion. "The Force Awakens" was an outsize success with a worldwide box office gross of $2.1 billion, the third-largest total of all time after "Avatar" and "Titanic."

Disney is planning to release another three Star Wars films including "Episode VIII" on Dec. 15, 2017, and a Han Solo movie on May 18, 2018.

Paul Dergarabedian, senior media analyst with comScore, said that the early numbers for "Rogue One" portend long term playability into 2017 that could eventually make it the top North American performer released in 2016. Disney's "Finding Dory" is the highest domestic grosser in 2016 with $486 million.

Rivals backed away from "Rogue One" except for Warner Bros. and New Line, which are launching "Collateral Beauty." Village Roadshow" is a co-financer on "Beauty," in which Smith's character deals with the death of his daughter.

Three more major titles will open Dec. 21 with Universal-Illumination's animated "Sing"; Sony's "Passengers," a science-fiction romance with Chris Pratt and Jennifer Lawrence; and Fox's video game adaptation "Assassins Creed."

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