Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker is expected to open between $190 million - $195 million over the weekend, Deadline reports. According to the report, the J.J. Abrams-directed Episode IX, touted as the finale to the nine-episode Skywalker Saga started with George Lucas’ original blockbuster in 1977, will earn an estimated $90 million on Friday when counting the $40 million Skywalker won in Thursday night previews. If Skywalker opens upwards of $195 million, it will hold the third-biggest December opening of all time, behind only Star Wars: The Force Awakens ($247m) — Abrams’ own franchise relaunch released this time in 2015 — and Rian Johnson’s The Last Jedi ($220m), released during the holiday season in 2017.
Rogue One: A Star Wars Story, Lucasfilm’s first spinoff set outside the episodic saga, will be pushed down a spot to fourth place. The Gareth Edwards-directed Rogue One opened to $155m in December 2016. Industry analysts projected Rise of Skywalker would open in the neighborhood of $175m-$200m, while studio Disney predicted a $160m domestic opening.
The $40m in previews reported by Disney gives Skywalker the fifth best opening Thursday preview of all time, behind Disney/Marvel Studios’ Avengers: Endgame ($60m), The Force Awakens ($57m), The Last Jedi ($45m), and Warner Bros.’ own saga ender, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2 ($43.5m).
As of Friday afternoon, Skywalker is rated at 57% “rotten” from critics on Rotten Tomatoes, giving it the second-lowest score of any live-action Star Wars movie, behind only 1999's Episode I - The Phantom Menace. Conversely, the all audience score has given Skywalker a 76% rating with more than 36,000 moviegoer votes submitted.
Franchise newcomer Richard E. Grant, who joins Skywalker as First Order Allegiant General Pryde, expected some blowback from fans as Episode IX is tasked with bringing both the sequel trilogy and the overall saga to a close.
“Inevitably there will be a Game of Thrones syndrome to Star Wars because you can’t please everybody all of the time,” he told io9. “And the ending, what people want it to be and what it actually is, hopefully, for the majority of people seeing it, they will feel that they’ve had their wishes fulfilled. But inevitably there’s gonna be people that don’t feel that way. And you can’t anticipate that. You have to do what is honest and true to you. And I think that J.J. and Chris [Terrio, co-writer] have done that to the absolute ends of their ability.”
Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker is now in theaters.