Star Wars Episode IX: The Rise of Skywalker

At one time in cinema history, no one cared how much a movie made over opening weekend, or domestically, or globally for that matter. It made for interesting trivia, but not much else. People wanted to go see a movie because it was a good story; or because there was a particular star in it they liked. The ticket price was a paltry pittance for the escape. The only people that cared about box office was the production company that made it. But here on the edge of the year 2020, the box office take is the measure of a film and the future of making more of them. Star Wars is no different, and the numbers are on for Episode IX: The Rise of Skywalker. Here’s the tale of the register tape.

Opening weekend for Episode IX brought in $175.5 million is the US and Canadian domestic markets, finishing with a worldwide total of $374 million. Analysts expected a $200 million domestic opening, while Disney gave cautious projections of a $165 million expectation. These numbers will be endlessly compared to The Last Jedi‘s $220 million opening, and J.J. Abrams first run at Star Wars, The Force Awakens and it’s record setting $248 million opening. So why is that? Why is the final installment of the Skywalker saga behind it’s predecessors? Let’s dig into that.

Was It Because Of Box Office Competition?

Jumanji: The Next Level dropped to number two this week

Going up against Episode IX were last week’s number one, two and three films respectively. Jumanji: The Next Level held steady moving to the number two slot, and Disney’s other winter release, Frozen II held on to third. The film duo of Dwayne Johnson and Kevin Hart is becoming a force in box office draw. Jumanji won’t be the last time you see these two in a blockbuster. Rian Johnson’s critically-acclaimed Knives Out fell from third to fifth place with a newcomer sneaking in and taking fourth; Universal’s adaptation of Cats.

Dame Judi Dench in Cats
Could someone change the litter box, please?

Cats is a strange conundrum. It’s full of star power and big-budget special effects, but what it was not full of is completion. The film was rushed to theaters barely out of the cutting room, and turned in more of a litter box performance than a box office performance. Universal is even sending a new, more-fully edited version to theaters for this weekend, but the damage may already be done. It’s safe to say Cats had little to no bearing on anyone else’s box office weekend. So if other films were not the reason for a low Episode IX opener, what else could it be?

Episode IX: The Mandalorian Effect

If you spend any time reading social media comments like I do, it should be no surprise many fans are quite content with Mando and Baby Yoda, and the promise of Obi-Wan’s small screen return. To some, Episode IX and the sequel films aren’t on their “to-see” list, or they’ll just wait for the Disney+ premier. Disney may be a victim of their own success here.

DIsney+ Star Wars Product; The Last Jedi
The Star Wars line-up on Disney Plus so far…

The Mandalorian is universally liked by old and new fans, and even non-fans are all in for Baby Yoda. Though it sounds hard to believe, I still meet people who have never seen any Star Wars film. Not just the old trilogy or the new sequels; they haven’t seen any of them at all. As astonishing as that may seem, they exist and they are legion. When I start the query of how, on God’s green Earth, have they never seen a Star Wars movie, the general answer is the big box office production just doesn’t interest them.

The Last Jedi Apathy

Rian Johnson Trilogy
Rian Johnson directing Carrie Fisher in The Last Jedi. (Image: Disney/Lucasfilm)

There are others in the fandom who have gone full dark side. The Last Jedi and it’s treatment of our beloved franchise and characters alienated them, sending them past the outer rim forever; never to return. They exist now to trash Star Wars and call us all Disney’s sheep for spending a thin dime on it any more. These are easy to identify by their constant-negative hit-and-run comments on anything with a smidgen of positive reflection of Star Wars. Some even have gone so far as to burn their memorabilia. It’s a small, yet vocal crowd working overtime to bring Disney’s Star Wars down. Sad thing is, it’s not necessary.

Still haven’t seen Episode IX? Check out our spoiler-free review here, by THS’s Hunter Bolding.

The hardest part about this crowd is we still need them. It’s not a problem to be a nay-sayer. Be a critic! I was briefly among this ideology after the first time I saw The Last Jedi. Let’s face facts… it was a terrible Star Wars movie that threw away opportunities to advance the saga and the new characters. But as Kylo says, “Let the past die. Kill it if you have to.” So I did. It’s the only Star Wars movie I do not own. It’s dead to me, but the franchise is not. Episode IX pulled victory out of the jaws of defeat.

Is it perfect? No.

Does it check every box I wanted? No.

But was it a good Star Wars movie? Absolutely. Come back to the light side, Disney and TLJ-haters. We want you back!

Ewan McGregor exiting the cinema after seeing The Last Jedi.
Ewan McGregor while exiting the cinema after seeing The Last Jedi.

Star Wars Films By the Numbers

Here’s a look at the franchise by film with their opening weekend, domestic and global hauls (not adjusted for inflation).

FilmProduction BudgetOpeningWeekendDomestic Box OfficeWorldwide Box Office
Star Wars Ep. IX: The Rise of Skywalker$275,000,000 $175,500,000 $175,500,000 $373,500,000
Solo: A Star Wars Story$275,000,000 $84,420,489 $213,767,512 $393,151,347
Star Wars Ep. VIII: The Last Jedi$262,000,000 $220,009,584 $620,181,382 $1,332,539,889
Rogue One: A Star Wars Story$200,000,000 $155,081,681 $532,177,324 $1,056,057,273
Star Wars Ep. VII: The Force Awakens$259,000,000 $247,966,675 $936,662,225 $2,068,223,624
Star Wars Ep. III: Revenge of the Sith$115,000,000 $108,435,841 $380,270,577 $848,998,877
Star Wars Ep. II: Attack of the Clones$115,000,000 $80,027,814 $310,676,740 $656,695,615
Star Wars Ep. I: The Phantom Menace$115,000,000 $64,810,970 $474,544,677 $1,027,044,677
Star Wars Ep. VI: Return of the Jedi$32,500,000 $23,019,618 $309,205,079 $475,106,177
Star Wars Ep. V: The Empire Strikes Back$23,000,000 $4,910,483 $290,271,960 $547,969,004
Star Wars Ep. IV: A New Hope$11,000,000$1,554,475$460,998,007$775,398,007

Star Wars: Going Forward After Episode IX

Bob Iger has gone on record several times saying that Star Wars will take a hiatus after this film. The next title for our galaxy far, far away is slated for 2022. As of now, no official announcements have been made on the film, but here’s where Kevin Feige could be worth more than his weight in box office gold.

Kevin Feige; Star Wars
Kevin Feige might have discovered the formula for box office gold

Marvel and Feige’s phased rollout from Iron Man in 2008 leading to Avengers: End Game was brilliant. They took several titles and released them in pieces, tying them together with little snips and end-credit scenes, culminating in an 11-year run that brought home… wait for it… $21.4 billion dollars. And it’s still going. If that isn’t a formula for box office success, I don’t know what is. Now picture a 10-film Star Wars run on the same phased format. Stand-alones and team-ups culminating in a final stand-type film on caliber with End Game and you can just take my wallet now. Oh by the way, guess who kicked all that off? Some director named Jon Favreau.

Jon Favreau directed and starred in Marvel's Iron Man back in 2008
Jon Favreau directed and starred in Marvel’s Iron Man back in 2008

What’s your take on all this, Star Wars fans? Have you seen Episode IX yet? If yes, what did you think of it? If you haven’t seen it, why not? Stick with That Hashtag Show for all your geek pop-culture news and reviews, and may the Force be with you!

Contributing sources: The Numbers, Box Office Mojo, Collider