December 22, 2019

Behind the US/Worldwide Weekend Box Office – 12.22.2019


OPENINGS:  The numbers for STAR WARS: THE RISE OF SKYWALKER (Lucasfilm/Disney) were always going to be huge, but despite all the “dog ate its homework” excuses like pre-holiday shopping syndrome that are ricocheting around the trades today, a $175.5M start in the US is a significant disappointment.  Anyone who’s seen Skywalker knows that it was engineered to erase The Last Jedi from audience memories, but in every notable metric, Skywalker is underperforming Jedi.  The weekend number is $44.5M (20%) lower than Jedi‘s, the Friday-to-Saturday drop was larger (47% vs 39%), the exit polls are worse (B+ vs A), and reviews are much less enthusiastic (57% vs 91% on Rotten Tomatoes).  It’s possible that Skywalker may only reach $550M in the US, around the $543.6M of The Lion King.  But Star Wars has never had the overseas boost that other giant franchises have enjoyed (Force Awakens earned 55% of its worldwide total internationally, and Last Jedi was at 54%, while Lion King‘s international take was 67% of its global total), and its $198M start in virtually all major markets was also below expectations.  A worldwide $1.1B would put it at #6 for the year.  The Star Wars features are enormously expensive, and while Skywalker will be very profitable, the next chapter in the saga will (theoretically) be a reset that doesn’t feature the familiar characters, putting the franchise at a crossroads.

There’s disappointing, of course, and then there’s CATS (Universal), an outright disaster with $6.5M in the US.  Some will try to cite The Greatest Showman and its phenomenal run that started at $8.8M and stretched all the way to $174.3M in the US ($435M worldwide), but the dismal C+ polls for Cats, and the 19% Friday-to-Saturday drop suggest that nothing like that is probable here.  The one slight bit of good news was that Cats opened comparatively well in the UK with $4.4M, but at $200M in production/marketing costs, this is a kitty that seems likely to be put to sleep.

BOMBSHELL (Lionsgate) expanded to wide release at 1480 theatres with an unexciting $5.1M, but it’s more of a long term play that will hope to run well into 2020 on awards season fuel.

HOLDOVERS:  JUMANJI: THE NEXT LEVEL (Columbia/Sony) dropped 56% to $26.1M from last week’s opening.  Comparisons to the previous Jumanji aren’t exact, because it opened on a Wednesday and a week later in the calendar, but at the end of its 2nd weekend it was at $169M ($14.7M from its first 2 days), while Next Level is at $101.9M.  It doesn’t seem to have the room to get near its predecessor’s $404.5M US total.  Overseas, it’s at $210M after a $32.5M weekend in all major territories except Italy, Australia and Brazil, and similarly is not up to the previous film’s $557.6M.

FROZEN 2 (Disney) lost 36% to $12.3M in its 5th weekend, and should reach $425M+ in the US.  Overseas, it’s at a massive $717.2M after a $31.6M weekend with a few markets still to open.

KNIVES OUT (MRC/Lionsgate) continues to impress with the best hold of the weekend, down 33% to $6.1M in its 4th weekend and on track to pass $100M in the US.  It’s similarly strong overseas (considering its moderate budget), with $96M after a $6.4M weekend in 76 territories.

RICHARD JEWELL (BRON/Warners) fell 45% from last week’s terrible opening to $2.6M, and it may have to stretch to reach $20M in the US, with no international openings yet.

QUEEN & SLIM (BRON/Universal) dropped 48% to $1.9M in its 4th weekend, and may get to $45M in the US.  It hasn’t opened overseas.

BLACK CHRISTMAS (Blumhouse/Universal) fell 58% to $1.8M, and might not see $15M in the US.  It has $6.1M overseas after a dull $1.7M weekend in 44 markets.

FORD VS. FERRARI (20th/Disney) hit a milestone in the US, at $102M after a 56% drop to $1.8M, and it’s in a similar place overseas with $91M after a $2M weekend in 38 territories.  However, it’s only likely to break even at best due to its substantial production budget.

LIMITED RELEASE:  A HIDDEN LIFE (Fox Searchlight/Disney) expanded weakly to 106 theatres with a $2400 weekend per-theatre average.  INVISIBLE LIFE (Amazon) opened with a quiet $4200 average at 2.

NEXT WEEK:  The wide openings are on Wednesday due to Christmas, and they include LITTLE WOMEN (Columbia/Sony), SPIES IN DISGUISE (Blue Sky/20th/Disney), and the expansion of UNCUT GEMS (A24), along with the limited releases 1917 (Universal), JUST MERCY (Warners) and THE SONG OF NAMES (Sony Classics).  The latter are joined on Friday by CLEMENCY (Neon).

About the Author

Mitch Salem
MITCH SALEM has worked on the business side of the entertainment industry for 20 years, as a senior business affairs executive and attorney for such companies as NBC, ABC, USA, Syfy, Bravo, and BermanBraun Productions, and before that, at the NY law firm of Weil, Gotshal & Manges. During all that, he has more or less constantly been going to the movies and watching TV, and writing about both since the 1980s. His film reviews also currently appear on and In addition, he is co-writer of an episode of the television series "Felicity."