Box-Office Preview: 'Rogue One' Could Blast Past $300M in Global Debut

Rogue One Still 2 - Publicity - H 2016
Giles Keyte/Lucasfilm

The stand-alone film begins opening overseas on Wednesday before landing Friday in North America; Will Smith drama 'Collateral Beauty' also debuts nationwide, while award contenders 'Fences' and 'Neruda' launch at the specialty box office.

Stay on target.

That's the mantra as Lucasfilm and Disney get ready to launch stand-alone film Rogue One: A Star Wars Story at the worldwide box office. The film is widely expected to score the second-best December debut of all time behind last year's Star Wars: The Force Awakens, with a domestic opening of $135 million to $150 million for a global debut of $300 million to $350 million, according to bullish box-office observers.

Disney is being more conservative and saying $120 million to $150 million domestically, since December isn't historically known for huge box-office openings because of holiday preparations. The studio's overseas estimate is $130 million to $150 million for a worldwide tally of $250 million to $300 million.

The Force Awakens — which revived the storied sci-fi film franchise — was the major exception to the December rule in debuting to a record-breaking $529 million worldwide. Previously, no December film had ever launched north of $85 million in North America or $250 million globally, including 2009's Avatar.

Trying to manage expectations, Disney has said all along it doesn't expect Rogue One to match The Force Awakens, since it is a stand-alone film with a new story and new main characters. Directed by Gareth Edwards, the tentpole stars Felicity Jones, Diego Luna, Ben Mendelsohn, Donnie Yen, Mads Mikkelsen, Alan Tudyk, Riz Ahmed, Jiang Wen and Forest Whitaker.

Rogue One is the first in a series of planned stand-alone movies from Lucasfilm extending the Star Wars empire. The pic focuses on the fabled mission hinted at in Star Wars: Episode IV — A New Hope about a brave group of rebels who steal the plans to the Death Star that later end up in the hands of Princess Leia.

Markets where Rogue One opens Wednesday include France, Sweden, Denmark, Netherlands, Indonesia, Norway, Switzerland, Belgium, Finland and Turkey. The U.K., Germany, Australia, Brazil, Russia, Mexico, Italy, Hong Kong, Poland, Malaysia, New Zealand, Argentina, Philippines, Singapore and Taiwan follow on Thursday. And on Friday, Rogue One moves into Japan, Spain and Venezuela. It doesn't debut in China until early January.

Rogue One will play in more than 4,100 theaters in North America, including on nearly 400 Imax screens and more than 500 premium large-format screens (the largest PLF footprint for any Disney release). It begins rolling out Thursday night. The Force Awakens likewise holds the record for Thursday night previews ($57 million), while few other films have ever done more than $30 million.

The tentpole will cap a banner year for Disney, which is on the verge of hitting $7 billion in 2016 global ticket sales, an industry record.

The only new film opening nationwide opposite Rogue One is New Line Cinema and Warner Bros.' star-studded ensemble drama Collateral Beauty, starring Will Smith, Kate Winslet, Keira Knightley, Helen Mirren, Edward Norton, Michael Pena and Naomie Harris.

In the David Frankel-directed pic, Smith plays a successful New York advertising executive struck by tragedy who writes letters to love, time and death — and gets a response.

Prerelease tracking suggest Collateral Beauty will open in the low-teen millions.

Elsewhere, award contenders Fences, directed by Denzel Washington, and Pablo Larrain's Neruda debut at the specialty box office, while Manchester by the Sea makes a major expansion into more than 1,200 theaters. All three films snagged top Golden Globe nominations on Monday morning.