A domestic opening in the $US190 million range would place The Rise of Skywalker behind its series predecessor by about 13 per cent. Star Wars: The Last Jedi arrived to $US220 million in December 2017, going on to collect $US1.33 billion by the end of its run. Some long-in-the-tooth franchises fall 20 per cent or more from chapter opening to chapter opening.

The Last Jedi, which was poorly received by some die-hard fans, had little competition during its first weekend in theaters. In contrast, The Rise of Skywalker faced a sturdy Jumanji: The Second Level (Sony Pictures), which was expected to collect about $US25 million in its second weekend, for a new domestic total of around $US100 million.

The other major movie released Friday, Cats, proved to be a nonfactor. Universal Pictures was hoping that the much-maligned musical, directed by Oscar winner Tom Hooper (The King’s Speech), would scratch out at least $US15 million in ticket sales. Instead, the movie, produced by Britain’s elite Working Title Films, was on pace to arrive to about $US7.6 million in ticket sales, according to Deadline.com, a trade news site.

Universal is still hopeful that Cats will find an audience — sort of like The Greatest Showman did in 2017, arriving to $US8.8 million that year but ultimately taking in $US174.3 million. But audiences liked The Greatest Showman,” which received an A grade in CinemaScore exit polls. Cats got a C-plus.

Cats cost roughly $US100 million to make, not including marketing, which started in July with a widely discussed trailer.

Cats has performed below expectations in its opening weekend.

Cats has performed below expectations in its opening weekend.

The Rise of Skywalker, directed by J.J. Abrams and produced by Kathleen Kennedy, received a B-plus grade from CinemaScore. The Last Jedi and its 2015 predecessor, The Force Awakens, each got an A. The Rise of Skywalker also had weaker reviews than the last two Star Wars installments.

Abrams and Kennedy had to satisfy a seemingly impossible array of demands: wrapping together myriad plotlines, catering to the fans who threw a fit over The Last Jedi,” standing out amid a flood of Star Wars offerings — including Baby Yoda and “The Mandalorian” on Disney Plus and the opening of Galaxy’s Edge theme park attractions.

Disney said that it had booked The Rise of Skywalker” into 4300 cinemas in the US and Canada, including 415 IMAX screens and 3200 3D locations. Theaters typically keep about 55 per cent of ticket sales, with the balance going to studios. But Disney will receive about 65 per cent of ticket sales for The Rise of Skywalker, in keeping with the onerous contracts it negotiated for previous Star Wars films.



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