It doesn’t really matter who Rey’s parents are or whether or not Luke Skywalker will turn to the Dark side of the Force in Star Wars: The Last Jedi; what matters is how much money these mysteries make Disney.
As reported by Variety on Wednesday, first estimates from tracking services have predicted that Star Wars: The Last Jedi will premiere in theaters on the weekend of December 15 at over $200 million. Industry analysts are wholly unsurprised by this news; Star Wars: The Force Awakens decimated box office records, racking up almost $250 million in its opening weekend.
The problem with all this is the history of the Star Wars box office. Because Star Wars has been around for 50 years and consists of eight films, we can detect patterns in the way the world reacts to new Star Wars movies. Historically, the second and third installments of a Star Wars trilogy do astronomically better on opening weekend than the first of a trilogy but, overall, suffer in comparison.
Take the prequel series for example. In 1999, Star Wars: The Phantom Menace had an opening weekend that racked up a measly (by today’s standards) $65 million. Meanwhile, Star Wars: Attack of the Clones (2002) and Star Wars: Revenge of the Sith (2005) ended their opening weekends at $80 million and $108 million, respectively, beating out The Phantom Menace by a fair amount. But just because the second and third installments of the trilogy did better on their opening weekends didn’t mean they beat Phantom Menace in the end.
Despite how much everyone loves to shit on The Phantom Menace, it is the third most successful Star Wars film to date with an overall domestic earning of $431 million. Compare that to Attack of the Clones’s $302 million and Revenge of the Sith’s $380 million domestically, and an interesting story unfolds. (For the record, the original Star Wars trilogy saw the exact same pattern, with the second and third films in the trilogy beating Star Wars: A New Hope out on their opening weekends but ending with less overall at the domestic box office by over $50 million.)
If the pattern continues, The Last Jedi should beat out The Force Awakens on opening weekend. It will go down in history alongside The Force Awakens, Jurassic World ($208 million), and The Avengers ($207 million) as the only movies to rake in at least $200 million on opening weekend. The Last Jedi should be the most profitable of them all at over $250 million.
But, in the end, The Last Jedi should suffer. That doesn’t mean it will do bad at the box office; it just means it probably won’t beat out The Force Awakens in the end.
It’s important to note that The Last Jedi could break the mold. Rogue One: A Star Wars Story is the second-highest grossing Star Wars film of all time (at $155 million on opening weekend and $532 million overall) and obviously acts as a standalone film. Rogue One’s success doesn’t necessarily affect any other Star Wars film’s success, though it could be an indicator for what to expect of the next anthology film, Solo: A Star Wars Story.
But it’s not over ‘til the Pa’lowick sings, and Lucasfilm and Disney still have two and half weeks of advertising to roll out before The Last Jedi premieres in theaters. Maybe The Last Jedi will surprise everyone, earning both the highest opening weekend box office of any Star Wars movie and becoming the highest earning movie of the series to date. Only time will tell.
Star Wars: The Last Jedi premieres in theaters on December 15.