Box Office: 'Star Wars: Rise of Skywalker' Aims for $185M U.S. Bow, 'Cats' Grumpy

STAR WARS: THE RISE OF SKYWALKER Still 12 - Publicity - H 2019
Courtesy of Lucasfilm

Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker

At this pace, the final title in the 42-year-old Skywalker saga will come in behind the last installment, 'Star Wars: The Last Jedi.'

J.J. Abrams' Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker could gross as much as $90 million Friday for a domestic box office debut of $185 million or more, according to early matinee returns.

Disney and Lucasfilm are being cautious in suggesting $175 million to $185 million for the weekend.

Not even The Force may be immune to some sequel fatigue. Two years ago, Rian Johnson's Star Wars: The Last Jedi — which divided fans — opened to $220 million domestically, while Abrams' Star Wars: The Force Awakens debuted to a then-record $248 million in 2015.

Nevertheless, $185 million would be a huge number for the weekend before Christmas (Jedi and Force Awakens opened in mid-December). Friday's haul will include $40 million in Thursday previews. Overseas, the Disney and Lucasfilm tentpole took in more than $58 million Wednesday and Thursday.

Heading into the weekend, Hollywood's leading tracking service had Star Wars opening to $175 million domestically. Disney was even more conservative in predicting $160 million-plus.

Movies launching just before the holiday can enjoy unusually strong multiples during the final two weeks of the year, putting less pressure on the opening number. (That's the hope, anyway.)

That adage will hold especially true for Tom Hooper's Cats and Jay Roach's Bombshell, both of which are opening opposite Skywalker.

Universal and Working Title's Cats — which has been ravaged by critics — may have trouble clawing its way to a $10 million domestic debut, while Lionsgate's Bombshell could also come in slightly behind expectations with a projected $6 million to $7 million in its nationwide expansion.

Hooper's big-screen adaptation of the Broadway musical had been tracking to open to $14 million to $17 million. The film, rated PG, hopes to be the choice for families as the holidays get underway. (Two years ago, The Greatest Showman bowed to $8.8 million over Christmas on its way to grossing $174.3 million domestically.)

Bombshell opened last weekend to a stellar location average of $78,025 from four theaters in New York and Los Angeles for Lionsgate. The Fox News drama stars Charlize Theron, Nicole Kidman and Margot Robbie.

Of the three movies, Bombshell boasts the best Rotten Tomatoes score (66 percent), followed by 58 percent for Star Wars and a bleak 19 percent for Cats.