Weekend Box Office: 'Rogue One' Approaches $150M U.S. Debut After Strong Saturday

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

Elsewhere, ensemble drama 'Collateral Beauty' looks to mark a career low for Will Smith, while 'La La Land' dances its way into the top 10 despite playing in only 200 theaters.

The Force remained with Lucasfilm and Disney's Rogue One: A Star Wars Story on Saturday for a likely U.S. debut of $150 million or more.

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 of $71.1 million included a massive $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 ($27.7 million), 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 it debuted to $247.9 million, the top domestic launch of all time for any month of the year. (Previously, no December event film, including 2009's 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 of 1977's Star Wars: Episode IV – A New Hope, when a group of rebels, led by Jyn Erso (Felicity Jones), obtains the plans for the Death Star, which are later given to Princess Leia.

The only new film daring to open opposite Rogue One is New Line Cinema and Village Roadshow's ensemble drama Collateral Beauty, starring Will Smith, Kate Winslet, Keira Knightley, Helen Mirren, Edward Norton, Michael Pena and Naomie Harris.

Collateral Beauty looks to be in serious trouble, earning only $2.4 million on Friday from 3,028 theaters for a projected $7 million-$7.5 million weekend, a career-worst for Smith.

In the $36 million film, Smith stars as a successful New York advertising executive struck by tragedy who writes letters to love, time and death — and gets a response. Audiences who did turn up gave the movie an A- CinemaScore.

Among awards contenders, La La Land continues to dazzle in its second weekend. Damien Chazelle's musical, starring Emma Stone and Ryan Gosling, earned a stellar $1.4 million from only 200 theaters on Friday to zoom into the top 10 chart. For the weekend, the Lionsgate movie — which nabbed seven Golden Globe nominations earlier in the week — is projected to gross $4.4 million for a sixth-place finish, bringing its early total to $5.7 million.

Despite playing in far fewer theaters, La La Land is projected to narrowly beat fellow awards hopeful Manchester by the Sea, which is expanding nationwide into 1,206 theaters (it too scored top Golden Globe nominations and swept SAG Awards noms). The Amazon Studios and Roadside film is projected to gross roughly $4 million for the weekend.

Opening in four theaters in New York and Los Angeles is awards contender Fences, directed by and starring Denzel Washington opposite Viola Davis. The $20 million film adaptation of the acclaimed Broadway play is projected to gross $120,000 for the weekend for a screen average of $30,000 for Paramount.

Dec. 16, 9:45 p.m.: Updated with revised Friday and weekend estimates.
Dec. 17, 7:30 a.m.: Updated with Friday numbers and revised weekend estimates.
Dec. 17, 9 p.m.: Updated with revised weekend estimates.