Meanwhile, Fox's Ferdinand is struggling, delivering an estimated $3.6 million on Friday and looking at a three-day opening fall short of $13 million. The Blue Sky animated feature also received an "A" CinemaScore from opening day audiences.
A24's The Disaster Artist is suffering a much steeper drop than expected, pulling in an estimated $750k on Friday and looking at a 60% or more drop for the weekend.
You can check out all of the Friday estimates right here and we'll be back tomorrow morning with a complete look at the weekend.
FRIDAY AM UPDATE: Star Wars: The Last Jedi delivered an estimated $45 million from Thursday evening previews last night, amounting to the second largest domestic preview gross of all time behind only Star Wars: The Force Awakens and 55% ahead of Rogue One's $29 million from previews last year. The film also began its international roll-out on December 13 in 14 markets where it has so far grossed an estimated $60.8 million. Overall, Disney reports the opening two days of The Last Jedi internationally are +63% ahead of Rogue One and only -25% behind The Force Awakens when looking at the same suite of markets and adjusting for today's exchange rates.
The Last Jedi debuts in Japan and Spain today for a day-and-date release across all territories except China, which opens on Jan 5.
Fox's animated release Ferdinand started playing at 5PM last evening and grossed $350,000 from ~2,385 locations. As always, it's tough to compare animated preview showings and even more so with this one since Alvin and the Chipmunks: Road Chip didn't hold preview screenings prior to opening alongside Force Awakens in 2015. That being said, one comparison we used in our weekend preview below was to Fox's Captain Underpants, which debuted earlier this year and also held 5PM preview screenings, which grossed $650k from ~2,550 locations. One major difference there, however, is only 1% of K-12 is out of school today, which is significant when comparing to a June release.
We'll take a closer look at things tomorrow morning once Friday estimates come in. For now you can check out our weekend preview below.
WEEKEND PREVIEW: After a strong performance last month, the December box office is currently pacing ahead of 2016 by 3% while the overall year is still pacing just a bit behind 2016, currently by 4.2%. However, now comes what will surely be the highest grossing domestic release of the year, Star Wars: The Last Jedi. The latest film in the Star Wars franchise is looking to become only the fourth domestic release to ever open over $200 million, sure to assist in closing the year-to-year gap even further. Meanwhile, Fox has chosen to once again offer some counter-programming with the animated release Ferdinand. Two years ago they tried a similar tactic when they debuted the fourth installment of the Alvin and the Chipmunks franchise against Star Wars: The Force Awakens. Much like 2015, we're anticipating similar results.
When forecasting the opening weekend for Star Wars: The Force Awakens back in 2015 it was a rather monumental task as no film had ever opened over $100 million in December let alone over $200 million. Not to mention anticipation was at a fever pitch as Force Awakens marked the first new live-action installment in the iconic franchise in ten years with the marketing might of Disney behind it. Now comes time to forecast the latest installment in the Skywalker Saga, Star Wars: The Last Jedi, and while the factors going into forecasting the sequel aren't nearly as numerous, that doesn't mean it's going to be a walk in the park.
For starters, Disney is anticipating a debut approaching $200 million from the film's 4,232 theaters, which makes it the widest December release ever and includes nearly 410 IMAX screens, 640+ Premium Large Format, 3,600+ 3D locations, and 212 D-Box locations. That's almost 100 more theaters than the 4,134 locations Force Awakens opened in, though still fewer theaters than the opening weekends for Jurassic World, Avengers and Age of Ultron, which brings us to our first comparison.
After The Avengers opened with $207.4 million in 2012 it was a big question as to whether Avengers: Age of Ultron would follow suit three years later. As it turned out, Ultron fell just a bit shy with a $191.2 million opening, signaling a 7.8% drop from the opening for the first film to the second. Taking into consideration the record-smashing $247.9 million debut for Force Awakens and using a similar drop puts The Last Jedi's opening at a very possible (if not probable) $228.6 million.
Digging deeper by taking a look at IMDb page view data, Last Jedi is pacing well behind Force Awakens with a performance closer to Rogue One leading up to release. In fact, until this past week Last Jedi was pacing behind the likes of Age of Ultron and Captain America: Civil War, though it has since shown significant growth as it's now pacing closer to both Ultron and Force Awakens. The significance of this information is up for debate as it would appear to how signs the film doesn't hold the same curiosity level as Force Awakens, which is entirely understandable, but it also appears the film's place within the Skywalker Saga versus the spin-off nature of Rogue One brings additional interest to Last Jedi.
That being said, Mojo is looking at an opening weekend range anywhere from $190-$227 million, which lines up with estimates from rival studios. All told, a forecast right around $220 million seems reasonable if not conservative. In fact, if you're looking for one more piece of data to throw in the mix, online ticket retailer Fandango.com reports Last Jedi is the company's second largest pre-sale title behind only The Force Awakens.
In second place is Fox's release of Blue Sky's latest animated feature Ferdinand, opening in 3,621 theaters. Two years ago Fox also targeted this weekend when they released Alvin and the Chipmunks: The Road Chip against Force Awakens and the film managed just a $14.2 million opening and was unable to match its predecessors, falling short of $100 million domestically. Ferdinand isn't looking to do much better with the studio anticipating a debut in the mid-teens and our analysis anticipating an opening most likely around $14-19 million with a chance it tops $20 million. A comparison to IMDb page view data does show it outpacing Road Chip as well as Captain Underpants leading up to release, which is where we see a chance for a debut on the higher end. However, trailer interest for Captain Underpants was significantly higher, which brings our expectations down for a $17 million forecast.
Look for Disney and Pixar's Coco to finish in third place, though this one is a tough forecast to sort out. In 2015 Pixar's The Good Dinosaur was in theaters when Force Awakens arrived along with Alvin and the Chipmunks and it dipped almost 58%. Of course, Good Dinosaur wasn't nearly as well received as Coco, which moves us to last year when Moana dropped just 31% upon the release of Rogue One. However, Moana wasn't facing any kind of substantial animated competition and Rogue One definitely isn't Last Jedi. This brings us to calculated averages, which suggest a drop right around 37-40% which is where we're focusing our efforts and anticipating a fourth weekend right around $11.5 million as Coco should top $150 million domestically by end of day Sunday.
Lionsgate's Wonder is looking at a fifth place finish right around $6 million as its domestic cume pushes toward $110 million.
Fifth place depends mostly on how well A24's The Disaster Artist holds over after its strong expansion last weekend. This week its adding another 170 locations for 1,010 in all and we're expecting a drop right around 24% and a $4.9 million three-day. Whether WB and DC Comics' Justice League can top that remains to be seen, but right now we're giving the edge to Disaster Artist to round out the top five.
Elsewhere in the top ten, both Daddy's Home 2 and Murder on the Orient Express should continue their hand-in-hand performance as both approach $100 million domestically.
Finally, one title to keep an eye on will be Fox Searchlight's The Shape of Water, which is expanding to 158 theaters (+117) this weekend. The highly praised feature from Guillermo del Toro grossed $1.14 million last weekend.
This weekend's forecast is directly below. This post will be updated on Friday morning with Thursday night preview results followed by Friday estimates on Saturday morning, and a complete weekend recap on Sunday morning.
- Star Wars: The Last Jedi (4,232 theaters) - $220.0 M
- Ferdinand (3,621 theaters) - $17.0 M
- Coco (3,155 theaters) - $11.5 M
- Wonder (3,047 theaters) - $5.5 M
- The Disaster Artist (1,010 theaters) - $4.9 M
- Justice League (2,702 theaters) - $4.5 M
- Daddy's Home 2 (2,493 theaters) - $3.3 M
- Thor: Ragnarok (1,895 theaters) - $3.1 M
- Murder on the Orient Express (1,923 theaters) - $3.0 M
- Lady Bird (947 theaters) - $2.3 M
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