Rise of Skywalker opens with $175.5 million US; Cats flops | CBC News

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Rise of Skywalker opens with $175.5 million US; Cats flops | CBC News

Rise of Skywalker opens with $175.5 million US; Cats flops | CBC News

The Force was a little less strong with Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker.

J.J. Abrams’ Skywalker finale couldn’t match its recent predecessors on opening weekend, but it still amassed a $175.5 million US debut that ranked as the third largest weekend of the year.

It was also the 12th-biggest opening of all time in the United States and Canada, and the third biggest in December in the world’s largest film market.

“That’s a great number for December,” said Jeff Bock, senior box office analyst at Exhibitor Relations Co. “This is a huge franchise. It’s got fans in every corner of the world.”

But, Bock added, “that’s a 20 per cent decline [domestically] from the last instalment. That’s a cause for concern no matter how big your franchise is.”

That disappointment extends beyond just falling ticket sales. The Rise of Skywalker came in with worse reviews than any Star Wars movie except for 1999’s The Phantom Menace, which famously heralded the debut of Jar Jar Binks.

The Rise of Skywalker has a 57 per cent fresh score on Rotten Tomatoes.

Audiences, too, were relatively lukewarm to the movie, giving it a B+ on CinemaScore.

That response may have muted what could have been a record-setting weekend. While Disney had cautiously estimated about a $165 million opening, analysts had pegged The Rise of Skywalker for around $200 million.

Worldwide, The Rise of Skywalker pulled in $374 million, according to studio estimates Sunday. The film was especially lacklustre in China, where all Star Wars films have struggled. It grossed only $12.1 million in the world’s second largest movie marketplace.

Despite similarly negative reviews, the previous Star Wars film, The Last Jedi, considerably outperformed The Rise of Skywalker. (Disney / Lucas Film)

That’s in contrast to how previous instalments in the franchise performed. Though it proved divisive with fans, 2017’s The Last Jedi, directed by Rian Johnson, opened with $220 million and ultimately grossed $1.3 billion worldwide. Abrams’ own The Force Awakens set a then-record in 2015 with a $248 million debut and sold more than $2 billion in global tickets.

With the coming holiday period, The Rise of Skywalker is still poised to dominate the year’s most lucrative week of moviegoing. Cathleen Taff, distribution chief for Disney, called it a great start.

“With critics, we’ve seen that our movies have received lower scores than not but that they continue to do business because they’re great quality movies for the moviegoer,” said Taff. “Audiences are generally responding really positively to the film.

“We know that people are very passionate about Star Wars and have very strong opinions about it. And we’re fine with that,” added Taff. “We think it’s inspiring to see so many people who want to prompt a discussion around a film.”

Cats can’t scratch it

Such expectations did not await Tom Hooper’s adaptation of Andrew Lloyd Webber’s Cats. The much ridiculed big-screen musical, featuring infamous “digital fur technology,” scratched out just $6.5 million in ticket sales, sending Mr. Mistoffelees (and Universal Pictures) home licking their wounds.

The $100 million production, featuring an ensemble including Jennifer Hudson, Judi Dench, James Corden, Idris Elba, Ian McKellen and Taylor Swift, came in behind projections and opened in a distant fourth place. The movie drew an 18 per cent fresh score on Rotten Tomatoes and a C+ CinemaScore from audiences.

“Even modest opening in this extraordinary lucrative corridor can prove very kind to films,” said Jim Orr, chief of distribution for Universal. He anticipates the film’s strongest demographic — older moviegoers — will be most available over the holidays. “Our scores from those who are 55 and up are very good and very encouraging.”

Despite his positivity, critics have widely derided the film for its loose plot and unfinished digital effects. The pun-focused headlines — From “cat-tastrophic” to “the worst thing to happen to cats since dogs” — have been far from kind, prompting star Jason Derulo to claim “reviews don’t matter,” while calling the movie “an incredible, brave piece of art.”

Adding to the film’s struggles, the original copy distributed to theatres had multiple CGI errors. According to The Hollywood Reporter, theatres were notified by Universal on Friday that they would receive an updated version of the film with “improved visual effects.” These would fix mistakes such as Dench’s hand appearing un-edited, and other characters’ clothes visible under their fur. 

Meanwhile, holdovers Jumanji: The Next Level ($26.1 million in its second weekend) and Frozen 2 ($12.3 million in its fifth weekend) both surpassed Cats.

Rise of Skywalker did help improve the shortfall at the box office compared to last year, but ticket sales are still running 4.6 per cent behind 2018, according to Comscore.

In its national expansion, the Lionsgate Fox News drama Bombshell underperformed expectations with $5.1 million in 1,481 theatres. Rian Johnson’s Last Jedi follow-up, the starry whodunit Knives Out continues to do strong business for Lionsgate. After $6.1 million in its sixth weekend, it has grossed $185.6 million globally.

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