The early box office tracking for Rogue One: A Star Wars Story is in, and it is very good news for Lucasfilm. Before we get too deep, however, it’s important to note that tracking is A. Incredibly imprecise, B. Just a starting point, and C. Incredibly imprecise. In recent years box office tracking has become less reliable as films like Deadpool opened to $50 million higher than expected, but it can also sometimes be on the nose, as with Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them. So as we proceed, keep in mind this is an early number that could change wildly by the time we hit opening weekend.
But yeah, the early tracking for Rogue One’s opening weekend box office is high. Per THR, the film is expected to hit at least $130 million domestic in its opening weekend on December 16th, with some tracking services even pegging the total as high as $150 million. That would be a phenomenal start for Lucasfilm’s first ever Star Wars spinoff, and would mark the second biggest December opening weekend ever—behind Star Wars: The Force Awakens.
Indeed, Force Awakens defied the odds when it scored $248 million in its opening weekend, which is not just the biggest opening weekend of all time, but a December record as no film previously had ever cracked $100 million during the final month of the year. Of course, Force Awakens had the benefit of the return of Han Solo and a proper sequel to Return of the Jedi while Rogue One is a prequel spinoff and a beast of a different sort, so no one was expecting Gareth Edwards‘ film to come close to that $248 million number.
Just as they did last year with Force Awakens, Lucasfilm has been trying to manage expectations with regards to Rogue One, playing up the fact that this is not a traditional Star Wars movie, and thus is a riskier gamble. If Rogue One succeeds and hits these kinds of box office numbers, Lucasfilm will no doubt feel more assured in proceeding with its standalone Star Wars movies, as they already have a Young Han Solo spinoff scheduled to begin filming in February.
When J.J. Abrams and Kathleen Kennedy lobbied Disney to push the release of Force Awakens back from May 2015 to December, they broke Star Wars tradition and led many to believe the film couldn’t soar as high as big summer blockbusters. However, nostalgia combined with positive audience response and brand recognition made Force Awakens a force to be reckoned with over the holiday season, as families came together and saw the new Star Wars film over and over again throughout December and January. Lucasfilm has already pushed Episode VIII to December 2017, and if Rogue One hits as big as it’s expected to, it makes sense for Lucasfilm and Disney to lean into this new tradition of families going out to see the latest Star Wars movie over the Christmas holiday.
One thing’s for sure—unless Rogue One really falters, it’ll easily surpass The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey’s $84 million opening to land the second highest December opening weekend of all time. If it cracks $160 million, that’s enough to put it in the Top 10 opening weekends of all time period, but again, tracking can be imprecise and you can bet Disney and Lucasfilm will be doing their best over the next month to lower expectations.
So yeah, it looks like Rogue One is going to start strong. The true test will be if the film is actually good. If audiences and critics respond kindly, we can probably expect similar legs to The Force Awakens and a healthy domestic total once all is said and done.