Anthony Daniels, Oscar Isaac, Brian Herring, Dave Chapman, John Boyega, Daisy Ridley, and Joonas ... [+] Suotamo in J.J. Abrams' 'Star Wars The Ris
In arbitrary box office milestones, Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker earned $1.26 million in North America yesterday, dropping 32% from Tuesday and a reasonable 48% from last Wednesday, giving it a new domestic cume of $482.6 million in 27 days of domestic release. Presuming a continued domestic/overseas split, the film earned around $1.72 million outside of North America yesterday for a new global cume of $1.0039 billion worldwide. So, yes, Star Wars IX should pass the unadjusted global cume of The Dark Knight ($1.004 billion in 2008) by the end of this sentence.
Yes, Chris Nolan’s acclaimed/zeitgeist-capturing sequel to Batman Begins opened 11.5-years ago, back when IMAX theaters were few and far between and when 3-D was just a quirky tool utilized by offbeat smaller movies like Spy Kids 3-D and Journey to the Center of the Earth. The Dark Knight didn’t play in China, partially due to a subplot involving a Chinese mob boss, and it’s still the third-biggest global earner to never play in China, behind Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest ($1.066 billion in 2006) and last year’s Joker ($1.069 billion).
With a whopping $20 million cume in China, Rise of Skywalker might as well have not played in China. Chinese audiences initially showed up for The Force Awakens but threw up their hands in disinterest just as quickly, giving it a $124.1 million cume but from a $33 million opening day. Rogue One earned $69.4 million while The Last Jedi earned $42.5 million and Solo earned just $16.4 million. Chinese moviegoers, with little-to-no attachment to the original Star Wars movies (or even the prequels) just looked at Star Wars as just another big-budget sci-fi fantasy franchise.
It’s not like we’re all lining up for the domestic release of Detective Chinatown 3 a week from Friday or Jiang Ziya next month (I am, but that’s part of the job and my daughter dug the hell out of Ne Zha). Despite Disney’s efforts to get Chinese audiences back on the Star Wars train, they have about as much interest in the “end of the Skywalker Saga” as (relatively speaking) we have in that “series finale” TV movie for Divergent that is probably never going to happen. Besides, China is now as superhero-obsessed as we are.
Speaking of which, for what it’s worth, if Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker passes the $1.051 billion gross of Aladdin, it’ll be the year’s biggest grosser that’s not an animated movie or a comic book flick. Yes, for this discussion, The Lion King counts as an animated movie, and Joker is a comic book movie even though it’s not about a superhero. Either way, Rise of Skywalker will be one of seven Disney 2019 releases among the top ten movies from last year. And one of the other three, Spider-Man: Far from Home, is part of the MCU and now kinda-sorta 25% a Disney property.
Joker is obviously a DC Films flick, which leaves Universal’s Fast & Furious Presents: Hobbs & Shaw, which is Hollywood’s only non-superhero (specifically DC or Marvel) property still killing it in China. The Dwayne Johnson/Jason Statham actioner earned $200 million of its $759 million global gross in China, which made it Hollywood’s third-biggest global grosser (behind 2012 in 2009 and Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales in 2017) to not crack $200 million domestic. Oh, and in spots 11 and 12 for the year? China’s Ne Zha ($724 million) and The Wandering Earth ($700 million).
To bring this back to Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker, the J.J. Abrams-directed sequel has earned less of its money overseas (51.9%) than Last Jedi (53.5%), Force Awakens (54.7%) and any of the prequels (53.8% in 1999, 52.1% in 2002 and 55.3% in 2005). More so, if only by a nose, than the last two Star Wars episodes, this has been a domestic-centric blockbuster attraction. If anything, The Rise of Skywalker is a Star Wars episode that acted like a Star Wars Story, like Rogue One (49.6% overseas for a $1.056 billion gross) and Solo (45.6% out of a $393 million worldwide gross).
Hollywood and Disney prepared for this, with Fox/Disney releasing Spies in Disguise five days after Rise of Skywalker, Sony releasing Jumanji: The Next Level a week before Star Wars IX and Universal releasing Cats concurrently with the Skywalker Saga finale. That only Jumanji 3 really broke out ($675 million and counting) even with a comparatively under-performing Star Wars sequel says something both about the effectiveness of counter-programming and the relative weakness of the Star Wars movie. To be fair, it would seem that Star Wars’s loss was Frozen II’s ($1.375 billion-and-counting) gain, so Disney wins either way.