The pre-weekend tracking in for Disney’s second Lucasfilm release, the Star Wars: A New Hope prequel Rogue One: A Star Wars Story, and the numbers are high. This time last year, the studio shattered box office records with the return of the iconic sci-fi fantasy franchise when The Force Awakens slam dunked the all-time biggest opening box office weekend of with $248 million domestic. But Rogue One is a very different circumstance. Not only did The Force Awakens have the extraordinary hype factor of being the first live-action Star Wars film in a decade, it boasted the return of the original trilogy’s beloved leading cast, and promised a continuation of the saga for the first time since 1983.
By contrast, Rogue One introduces an entirely new cast of leading heroes, is led by a cast that’s tremendously talented but by no means household names, and dips back in the timeline once again. All the same, the force is strong with the Star Wars brand and Variety reports that Rogue One is on track to debut with a huge $120-150 million, and to double that internationally for a worldwide opening sum of $250 million to $300 million. Not too shabby for a scrappy band of rogues on a mission to steal the Death Star plans.
Rogue One will have little in the way of competition as studio competitors wisely steered clear of the hotly anticipated launch of the first Star Wars standalone film. Warner Bros.’ Will Smith-led weepie drama Collateral Beauty will seek out the portion of the audience looking from a reprieve from blockbuster entertainment. Paramount will release their August Wilson adaptation Fences in four theaters, which is poised to generate some awards season heat for stars Denzel Washington and Viola Davis. But otherwise, the path is clear for Rogue One to swoop in and dominate.
On top of the proven pull of the Star Wars name, Rogue One is also riding on solid early buzz thanks to good word of mouth out of early screenings and positive critical reviews. And given the quality of this year’s blockbuster output, audiences are probably hungry for a big, spectacle-driven epic that doesn’t suck.
Rogue One stars Felicity Jones, Mads Mikkelsen, Ben Mendelsohn, Diego Luna, Donnie Yen, Forest Whitaker, Alan Tudyk, Wen Jiang, and Riz Ahmed, and arrives in theaters this weekend.