Lucasfilm and Disney’s Rogue One: A Star Wars Story opened to a huge $71.1 million on Friday at the North American box office.
Projections for the movie’s weekend take vary wildly. Disney insiders are being conservative and suggesting $143 million-$150 million, while rivals believe Rogue One could approach $155 million.
Either way, the stand-alone Star Wars movie will easily post the second-best December debut of all time behind last year’s revival Star Wars: The Force Awakens, the seventh episode in the iconic sci-fi franchise.
Rogue One, costing a reported $200 million, is playing in 4,157 locations and nabbed an A CinemaScore. Friday’s take includes $29 million in Thursday-night previews, the top showing of the year to date. The previous 2016 record-holder was Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice ($27.7M), which debuted to $166 million over the March 25-27 weekend.
Mid-December hasn’t been known for huge openings since many consumers are distracted by holiday preparations. Force Awakens changed all of that when debuting to $247.9 million, the top domestic launch of all time for any month of the year. (Previously, no December event film, including Avatar, had launched north of $85 million.)
Rogue One, which doesn’t have the same nostalgia factor as Force Awakens, is a key test for Lucasfilm and Disney as they try to expand the Star Wars empire beyond the core episode films. The movie is opening in most major markets around the world this weekend — save for China and South Korea — and earned a stellar $33 million on Wednesday and Thursday.
Directed by Gareth Edwards, the story is set before the events in the 1977 Star Wars: Episode IV – A New Hope when a group of rebels, let by Jyn Erso (Felicity Jones) obtain the plans for the Death Star, which are later given to Princess Leia.