It’s trite and super-obvious, but it needs to be said: Disney probably has a bad feeling about this.
Solo: A Star Wars Story is looking at a three-day Memorial Day weekend box office of $83.3 million in the United States. That’s a great starting point for movies not called “Star Wars,” but the figure is much lower than what had been expected.
In the run-up to opening weekend, Disney expected to pull in a four-day box office total of $130 million to $150 million. But at the current pace, there’s still some question as to whether or not Solo will manage to break $100 million.
Memorial Day weekend is traditionally not the strongest time to open a mega-blockbuster. The biggest opening of all time, $139.8 million, belongs to Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End. That four-day total doesn’t even rank in the Top 20 for Hollywood’s all-time best opening weekends.
With one more day to go in the holiday weekend, it’s exceedingly unlikely that Solo will catch up to Disney’s low-end estimate of $130 million. Looking at past Memorial Day hits, the best-case for this latest Star Wars is a Monday box office of roughly $25 million, at best. And even that would only put it just north of $100 million over four days.
The holiday isn’t the only factor to blame for Solo‘s rough start. Deadpool 2, still fresh after its release last Friday, is solidly locked in at #2 for the weekend, with an estimated $42.7 million. Alarm bells are ringing there as well — Deadpool‘s second weekend take represents a 66 percent drop in attendance since opening weekend, which isn’t great.
Disney is also competing with itself to some extent. Even with Avengers: Infinity War‘s surprise release date shift, from early May to late April, it’s still kicking on the box office charts. It’s the weekend’s #3 winner, with $16.5 million.
Solo‘s poor performance doesn’t get a pass just because of external pressures.
One the one hand, that’s not a huge dent to Solo‘s opening days in theaters. But on the other, an extra $16.5 million on the weekend estimate would have at least guaranteed a $100 million-plus four-day weekend, and it would have put Solo much closer to Disney’s early forecast for opening weekend.
Competition and less-than-ideal holiday weekend positioning are factors in the low box office, no question. But Solo itself doesn’t get a pass just because of those external pressures.
At the end of the day, a movie lives and dies by its own inherent quality, or lack thereof. And in the case of Solo, critics were left wanting. The new Star Wars movie currently stands at 71 percent “Fresh” on movie reviews aggregator Rotten Tomatoes. That’s good enough to top only two of the three prequel films (Revenge of the Sith scored higher), as well as the three-TV-episodes-in-one “movie” for Star Wars: The Clone Wars.
Solo was of course beset by high-profile production challenges, including the removal (read: firing) of original directors Phil Lord and Christopher Miller. Replacement director Ron Howard came in to finish off the movie on a truncated production schedule.
There’s no telling what Solo would have looked like if that director shuffle hadn’t happened, or if Howard had been given more time. It also doesn’t matter; speculation can be fun, but in this case the movie is what it is. It’s out now, and the box office is an inescapable piece of its story.
Solo could still end up being a box office winner in the end. It’s sure to earn more than most movies do, simply because it’s a Star Wars. But it could also overcome the initial Memorial Day speedbump if word-of-mouth sends a different, more positive message than critics have.
Then again, summer competition is real. The first week of June is fairly quiet, but Solo will be facing off in subsequent weeks against Ocean’s 8, The Incredibles 2, and Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom, as well as the buzzy horror movie, Hereditary.
The most likely outcome here has Solo pulling in enough around the world for Disney to meekly frame it as a success. But in reality, this is a weak opening for a Star Wars movie, as the lowest of the four post-Disney releases and even falling short of Revenge of the Sith, which opened in 2005 with $108.4 million.
None of this spells the end for Star Wars at the movies, of course. But you can bet that Disney will be watching Solo closely, and trying to learn from whatever mistakes led to this box office low point for the series.
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