It looks like Rogue One: A Star Wars Story is off to a stellar start. According to Deadline, the movie pulled in an estimated $30 million from Thursday night previews in domestic box office receipts, with showings that started at 7 p.m. local time. That would best initial estimates by as much as 50% or 10 million dollars, proving that the buzz from the final week of lead-in time paid off for Disney.
Final numbers for Thursday night should come later this morning.
That $30 million would make Disney, the record-setting leader in 2016 box office already, very happy. That's because Rogue One's success isn't only affecting this film, but the franchise as a whole. The future of the "Star Wars Story" concept of standalone films rests, fairly or not, on Rogue One's shoulders.
Of course, Rogue One will get compared to Star Wars: The Force Awakens by nature of duplicate release weekends year-over-year and the fact that yes, technically, they're in the same franchise despite the very different corners and tones they're seeking to cover. To that end, The Force Awakens, a once in a lifetime perfect storm of anticipation that came from 30 years of waiting for a sequel, the first release after Disney's purchase of Lucasfilm, the first film in the series with no involvement from George Lucas, and the return of the big three of the original trilogy, obviously set unbeatable expectations. The record-setting $57 million preview night was never in sight for Rogue One. The $30 million mark would put Rogue One on par with The Dark Knight Rises, the final three Twilight Saga films, and put it over every comic book movie released in 2016 - Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice had a $27 million Thursday night preview.
Interestingly, according to ComScore PostTrak audience polls, more women are showing up for Rogue One on opening night than for The Force Awakens, bringing the marketshare from 29% last year to 38% of attendees this year. There has been extensive talk about female fandom and creative's place in the franchise of late.
Basically, Rogue One is, and has always been, playing for second place in December box office. At $30 million, it will have that for Thursday night previews, and will be well on its way to demolishing the current second place finisher of The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies for December opening weekends (that movie had a now-paltry 11.2 million dollar Thursday night preview, which also started at 7pm).
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Rogue One: A Star Wars Story hits US theaters December 16, 2016. Directed by Gareth Edwards, it's the first of the new standalone features from Lucasfilm and Disney, which take place outside the core "Skywalker Saga" of films noted by an Episode number. Rogue One tells the story of the small band of rebels that were tasked with stealing the plans to the first Death Star. The story spins directly off the opening crawl from the original Star Wars: Episode IV - A New Hope. In that crawl, it read: "Rebel spaceships, striking from a hidden base, have won their first victory against the evil Galactic Empire. During the battle, Rebel spies managed to steal secret plans to the Empire’s ultimate weapon, the DEATH STAR, an armored space station with enough power to destroy an entire planet."