Last Monday Disney dropped the final (domestic) trailer for one of the most anticipated movies of the year – Star Wars Episode IX: The Rise of Skywalker. While it didn’t contain a big reveal as the previous two teasers had – with the return of Emperor Palpatine and Dark Rey – it did enough to get fans excited for the final chapter of the legendary saga and has been viewed over 21 million times on just the official Star Wars YouTube channel alone.
Along with the footage, tickets for the film officially went up for sale just prior to the trailer’s debut. Heavy traffic overwhelmed several sites forcing them to crash, as the servers couldn’t handle the rush of visitors. According to Atom Tickets, The Rise of Skywalker set the site’s all-time record for tickets sold within the first hour and sold 2.5x the amount of tickets that The Last Jedi sold in its first day. Although, it wasn’t able to dethrone Marvel behemoth Avengers: Endgame for total first-day sales. But according to Fandango, Episode IX was able to beat every other Star Wars film’s first-day totals.
While advanced ticket pre-sales make for sexy headlines and garners a lot of clicks, it doesn’t automatically translate to a $2 billion box office run. While it can help measure excitement for a movie and brand strength, advanced ticket sales are ever growing as it quickly becomes the preferred ticket purchasing method for more movie-goers each year. Ultimately, it would be more of a headline if Episode IX’s sales didn’t out-pace every other Star Wars film to date.
The headlines do drum up excitement, though. Fans are already starting to speculate the film’s final box office totals, and depending on which side of the fandom you’re on, that could be two very different numbers. To get a more accurate idea of how The Rise of Skywalker might do over the course of its box office run, I turn to math and history.
According to Box Office Pro, the long range tracking for The Rise of Skywalker has the movie earning between $185-225M opening week. That’s a fairly large range, but we’re still two months out, so that’s what we have to work with. To calculate domestic and worldwide estimates, we plug the high and low of the range into the performances of past Disney Star Wars films. The most important question is, will Episode IX perform closer to The Force Awakens or The Last Jedi?
The Force Awakens had a lot going for it back in 2015. It was the first Disney Star Wars movie released and reintroduced fans to beloved characters who they hadn’t seen on screen for forty years, while also introducing new, soon-to-be favorites. The movie had extremely long legs – reaching a multiplier of 3.78x – and still holds the domestic box office record with $936.7M.
While The Last Jedi was the direct sequel to The Force Awakens it was the third Disney Star Wars film in as many years. By that time the novelty and excitement had started to wear off just a bit, but the film still went on to gross well over $1 billion.
If we take Episode IX’s estimated opening weekend and use the multiplier for The Force Awakens and The Last Jedi, we can get an idea of what the film’s final domestic number might look like. To generate a global estimate, we can look to the domestic/foreign split for Episodes VII and VIII. Both films’ domestic totals made up right around 46% of the total global haul.
With this information, if Episode IX‘s performance mirrors The Force Awakens we could see a final global box office haul of anywhere from $1.52-1.85B. But if it sees a performance closer to that of The Last Jedi we may see a final number a bit lighter, from $1.13-1.37B.
Historically, it is normal for the final movie in a trilogy – and in this case the entire Skywalker saga – to outperform its predecessors. But unless Episode IX perfectly executes the finale and leans heavily into nostalgia – bringing back beloved characters like Luke, Obi-Wan, and even Anakin Skywalker – I don’t see it performing as well as The Force Awakens. The circumstances surrounding that film were too unique and something we may never see again. At the same time, if it does deliver a finale that can galvanize the fanbase it could easily outperform The Last Jedi. Luckily we have one more comp from the Disney Star Wars era that might give us the most accurate guide for Episode IX’s potential box office run.
While it’s not part of the franchise’s main saga, Rogue One was met with heavy fanfare. It was just the second Disney Star Wars film to be released so the fan base was still extremely excited and hungry for anything Star Wars. If we use Rogue One’s box office performance as a guide – while sticking with the the 46% domestic split – we get a result that lands somewhere in between Episodes VII and VIII.
It’s not a hot take to say that The Rise of Skywalker is going to be another massive, $1B+ film for Disney to add to its historic 2019 box office. While The Last Jedi left some fans of the franchise unhappy and unsure of the future state of Disney Star Wars, I think that most people are too invested at this point to pass up on what could be an epic finale.