8:21 AM PST 12/21/2019
Friday audiences didn’t like ‘Cats’ much more than critics, giving the musical a C+ CinemaScore, while ‘Rise of Skywalker’ is the first recent ‘Star Wars’ pic not to earn an A.
J.J. Abrams’ Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker soared to $90 million at the Friday box office, putting the tentpole on course for a domestic debut in the $190 million range.
Not even The Force is immune to some sequel fatigue, despite the latest Star Wars pic being billed as a finale to the Skywalker saga. Two years ago, Rian Johnson’s Star Wars: The Last Jedi — which divided fans — opened to $220 million domestically, preceded by a then-record $248 million for Abrams’ Star Wars: The Force Awakens in 2015.
Nevertheless, $190 million would be a huge number, as well as repping the third-best December launch of all time behind Force Awakens and Last Jedi. Friday’s haul, which included $40 million in Thursday previews, is likewise high up on the list of all-time biggest first days for any time of the year, or No. 6, according to Comscore.
Movies hitting the big screen just before Christmas can enjoy unusually strong multiples during the final two weeks of the year, putting less pressure on the opening number.
Potential challenges facing Skywalker include mixed reviews and a B+ CinemaScore. It’s the first Star Wars pic made by Lucasfilm and Disney not to earn an A from audiences. Exit scores on PostTrak are more promising.
Elsewhere, Universal and Working Title’s Christmas event movie Cats is looking at a disappointing fourth-place finish behind holdovers Jumanji: The Next Level and Frozen 2 with a projected $8 million weekend, behind expectations.
On Friday, Cats took in an estimated $2.6 million after landing a dismal C+ CinemaScore from moviegoers and getting banished to the litter box by critics.
Directed by Tom Hooper, the PG pic hopes to make ground in the coming days as families become available. (Two years ago, The Greatest Showman bowed to $8.8 million over Christmas on its way to grossing $174.3 million domestically.) Cats cost $100 million to make after tax rebates and incentives. That doesn’t include marketing costs.
Lionsgate’s Bombshell is likewise coming in behind expectations in its nationwide expansion, albeit by a slimmer margin. The Fox News drama rounded out the top five Friday with an estimated $1.8 million for a projected weekend gross of $5.5 million-$6 million.
Of the three movies, Bombshell — an awards contender — boasts the best Rotten Tomatoes score (65 percent), followed by 57 percent for Star Wars and a mere 19 percent for Cats.