'Star Wars: The Last Jedi' Optimism Helps Drive Theater Stocks Higher

The Star Wars saga is no stranger to box office success, with each installment in the series often going on to shatter records. The power of Star Wars' financial successes not only help Disney and Lucasfilm, but the anticipated box office numbers of The Last Jedi have caused theater chains' stocks to rise as the year comes to a close.

With a few weeks still to go before Last Jedi opens, the upcoming sequel is expected to take in over $200 million in its opening weekend. These expected numbers have caused shares in both AMC and Regal Cinemas to rise nearly 5%, with Cinemark seeing an increase of 2%.

The Star Wars saga isn't the only contributing factor to the increase in exhibitor stocks, with Pixar's Coco expected to win big at the box office this weekend due to its family-friendly adventure over a holiday weekend, as well as Lionsgate's Wonder, another inspiring story for the whole family.

It's worth noting that these increases in stock prices come at the end of the year, following one of the worst summers in a decade at the box office. According to Variety, the summer finished with $3.8 billion domestically, which was a 14.6% drop from last summer. This total was the lowest since 2006's $3.7 billion domestic gross.

The poor box office numbers come from a variety of factors, from poorly-reviewed big-budget blockbusters that audiences failed to connect with to some of the year's biggest hits being released in the off-season.

“The weakness of the summer box office is not indicative of a long-term trend,” Adam Aron, CEO of leading circuit AMC expressed, “especially immediately after two-and-a-half years of record box office performance and just before what we expect will be strong and robust consumer demand through year end.”

Two of the biggest box office surprises came earlier this month, with the third solo adventure for Thor, Thor: Ragnarok, exceeding expectations and taking in over $120 million domestically. Two weeks later, unfortunately, Justice League, the culmination of the DC Extended Universe, disappointed by failing to crack $100 million domestically.

In 2015, The Force Awakens shattered opening weekend records by taking in $248 million in its opening weekend. Last year, the spinoff film Rogue One: A Star Wars Story also had a strong opening, taking in $155.1 million in its first three days.

The Last Jedi hits theaters on December 15.

[H/T Deadline]