Disney/Lucasfilm’s Star Wars: The Last Jedi aka Episode VIII arrived on tracking this morning with similar polling points to 2015’s Star Wars: The Force Awakens.
Unaided awareness – that part of movie polling which indicates how powerful a film property is among those who aren’t prodded to mention a pic’s title in a survey — is at 35 to Force Awakens’ 36. It’s a telling stat that tells studios how much non-fans are aware of a pic’s property, and depending on how a movie scores here, they’ll spend ad dollars specifically to make this quadrant grow. First choice is 23 for the Rian Johnson-directed sequel versus 22 for the previous J.J. Abrams title, while definite interest is 65 to 60. Total awareness is huge at 94 to Force Awakens‘ 92.
These stats prompt our non-Disney box office analytical sources to point to a $200M start for Star Wars: The Last Jedi, making it the fourth-highest opening of all-time behind the studio’s Episode VII, Force Awakens, which posted $247.96M at 4,134 theaters in December 2015 as well as Jurassic World ($208.8M) and Marvel’s The Avengers ($207.4M). There are some aggressive estimators who believe Last Jedi could be the second best opening of all-time. Advance tickets for The Last Jedi have been on sale since Oct. 9.
Force Awakens triggered an audience turnout that was unheard for the last month of any year which, though a lucrative one during the holidays, typically saw movie openings capped by holiday activities like shopping and parties before Christmas Day. Oh, and snow and ice, let’s not forget about that. Sour weather has the potential to cut into ticket sales at that time of year. However, Disney has built a lot of intrigue in Last Jedi‘s marketing, sending fanboys’ heads spinning: Is Luke Skywalker bi-polar, swinging between the dark and light sides? Does Rey go evil? Does Kylo Ren go good? And how are the two related again? Prior to Force Awakens, December’s biggest opening belonged to The Hobbit: The Unexpected Journey ($84.6M), so Disney radically changed the game for the month, truly blowing the doors off exhibition in regards to how much one movie could rake in three days for the winter month, not once, but twice: Last December, the studio’s spinoff movie Rogue One: A Star Wars Story chalked up $155M, the second best three-day for the month and the third best last year behind Disney/Marvel’s Captain America: Civil War ($179.1M), and Warner Bros.’ Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice ($166M).
We’ve been hearing this projection from rivals for Last Jedi for quite some time, and today’s tracking confirms what they’ve been expecting all along. Of course with any box office projection this far out, we always need to asterisk and say there’s a chance due to unforeseen circumstances (such as the freeze-out of theaters in the Northeast due to Storm Jonas in January 2016) that Last Jedi could place in the high $100Ms, and again, that wouldn’t be an upset, because Disney once again would be expanding the month’s audience greatly. What is for certain is that The Last Jedi is bound to chart the best opening of the year, shooting past Disney’s own Beauty and the Beast ($174.7M) last March. When tracking is this high, it’s a challenge for some to predict with any statistical accuracy an opening north of $150M given the small pool of films that debuted north of that figure. Other hurdles during the weekend of Dec. 15-17: It’s one of the busiest traveling periods, plus there’s only 9% kids out of school, a figure which will grow to 50% the following week and then 100% from Dec. 25 to Jan. 1 with another 50% off until Jan. 8.
But still, Disney overcame such challenges before two years in a row with two Star Wars movies, and who says they can’t do it again?