The Force is getting ready to strike the global box office once again.
Disney and Lucasfilm’s Star Wars: The Last Jedi begins opening in select foreign markets midweek before blasting off in North America and other major territories on Friday. That excludes China, where the tentpole doesn’t roll out until Jan. 5.
By all accounts, the sequel to Star Wars: The Force Awakens should gross $425 million-plus by Sunday to secure one of the five best worldwide openings of all time, not accounting for inflation. That includes a North American take in the $200 million range, the best opening of the year so far and a feat few movies have achieved. All of Hollywood is counting on The Last Jedi to narrow the year-over-year gap in domestic revenue, which is currently running roughly 4 percent behind last year’s record $11.4 billion.
A major challenge for Disney is managing expectations so as to avoid the inevitable comparisons to director J.J. Abrams’ The Force Awakens, which raked in $247.9 million in December 2015, the top domestic opening ever, on its way to becoming the No. 1 film of all time domestically with $936.7 million, not accounting for inflation. Disney says The Force Awakens had the distinction of being the first Star Wars film in a decade.
Overseas, The Force Awakens debuted to $281 million for a total of $529 million, the second-biggest global opening of all time behind this year’s The Fate of the Furious ($541.9 million), which had the advantage of launching day-and-date in China to a massive $184.9 million.
Last year, spinoff Rogue One: A Star Wars Story bowed to $290.1 million globally, including $155.1 million domestically and $135 million internationally.
Directed by Rian Johnson, The Last Jedi sports a running time of two and a half hours, compared to two hours and 16 minutes for Force Awakens.
The Last Jedi — otherwise known as Episode VIII — reunites many of the new Star Wars actors introduced in The Force Awakens, including Daisy Ridley, Adam Driver, John Boyega, Oscar Isaac, Andy Serkis and Lupita Nyong’o, along with original stars Mark Hamill and the late Carrie Fisher, to whom the movie is dedicated. Franchise newcomers include Kelly Maria Tran, Laura Dern and Benicio del Toro.
The story picks up immediately after the events of The Force Awakens, with Rey (Ridley) seeking out Luke (Hamill) to help the Resistance (led by Fisher’s Leia) and its fight against the villainous Kylo Ren (Driver) and The First Order.
The only film daring to open opposite The Last Jedi is Ferdinand, an animated family offering from Fox and Blue Sky Studios that hopes to win over younger tots and their parents throughout the holidays. (In a unexpected twist of fate, Ferdinand opens just as Disney prepares to announce its proposed acquisition of Fox assets).
Tracking suggests Ferdinand will open in the mid-teen millions to $20 million range. Directed by Carlos Saldanha, the pic is based on the classic children’s book about a peace-loving Spanish bull who would rather while away the hours smelling flowers and daydreaming than taking to the ring to fight. The voice cast includes John Cena, Kate McKinnon, Anthony Anderson, Bobby Cannavale, Petyon Manning and Gina Rodriguez.
On Monday, Ferdinand nabbed Golden Globes nominations for best animated feature and animated score.