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Box Office: ‘Rogue One’ Lands $29 Million in Biggest Thursday Preview of the Year

Variety logo Variety 12/16/2016 Dave McNary
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Rogue One: A Star Wars Story” has landed with a massive $29 million in Thursday night preview showings in North America.

It was the biggest Thursday preview of the year ahead of “Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice” with $27.7 million and “Captain America: Civil War” with $25 million — and the seventh-largest of all time. “Rogue One” took in $3.7 million in North America  from 401 Imax screens on Thursday night in the widest domestic release for the giant-screen format.

The eighth Star Wars movie has also begun its international run with $33 milllion in its first two days on Wednesday and Thursday with $5 million in the U.K, $3.6 million in Australia and $3.1 million each from Germany and France. “Rogue One” posted the highest opening day of 2016 in Australia, Germany, Austria, Belgium, Scandinavia and Switzerland.

“Rogue One” is set to be the biggest hit of the current holiday movie season and one of the biggest blockbusters of this or any year.

The space opera is poised to open to between $120 million to $150 million domestically this weekend at 4,157 sites. It should add another $150 million to that tally from foreign territories when it opens in nearly every major moviegoing market except China and South Korea.

Domestically, “Rogue One” will likely put up the second-largest December domestic opening in history, behind last year’s $248 million debut of “Star Wars: Episode VII — The Force Awakens” on the same weekend. “The Force Awakens” took in an astounding $57 million in Thursday night previews, smashing the $43 million pre-opening record set by the final Harry Potter movie.

Should it top $135 million in North America this weekend, “Rogue One” will crack the list of the top 20 North American launches of all time.

“Rogue One” is the eighth film in the Star Wars franchise but the first to step outside the narrative of the other seven films in a standalone story set shortly before the events of 1977’s original “Star Wars” — though Darth Vader, the Galactic Empire and The Death Star remain key elements. Felicity Jones stars with Diego Luna, Ben Mendelsohn, Mads Mikkelsen, Donnie Yen, Alan Tudyk and Forest Whitaker.

“Rogue One” follows a group of rebel spies trying to steal the schematics for the Empire’s Death Star. It’s directed by Gareth Edwards (“Godzilla”) from a script by Chris Weitz and Tony Gilroy.

Disney is launching “Rogue One” accompanied by enormous expectations, four years after it acquired Lucasfilm from founder George Lucas in October, 2012, for $4 billion. “The Force Awakens” fulfilled the initial hopes last year with a worldwide box office gross of $2.1 billion, the third-largest total of all time after “Avatar” and “Titanic,” but Disney is now on the hook for “Rogue One” and four more Star Wars films.

Rivals have opted to back away from “Rogue One” except for Warner Bros., which is launching Will Smith’s drama “Collateral Beauty,” expected to gross about $12 million at 3,028 locations. Three more major titles will open Dec. 21 with Universal-Illumination’s animated “Sing”; Sony’s “Passengers,” a science-fiction romance with Chris Pratt and Jennifer Lawrence; and Fox’s video game adaptation “Assassins Creed.”

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