‘Rogue One’: Could ‘Star Wars Story’ Be Franchise’s Last Big Hit? What The Numbers Show

Rogue One: A Star Wars Story is already being touted as a success by many in the film industry — understandable if one is going by those early ticket sales.

Deadline just reported that the film is outstripping ticket sales for other hits, such as Suicide Squad, Deadpool and Doctor Strange, which were all massive box office hits in their own right.

Add to the fact this is the multibillion-dollar Star Wars franchise with close to 40 years of history behind it, and what could one expect?

But there are starting to be murmurings in the film journalism community that Rogue One, while successful, may be the first and last Star Wars Story to do well in terms of profitability.

The Guardian‘s Catherine Shoard speculates that Disney may actually want to cap the success of Rogue One for the sake of future films. “With a fortnight still to go before its release, Rogue One is nonetheless set to be 2016’s highest-grossing film,” Shoard acknowledged, continuing below.

“But these figures may mask a slightly different story. Although three films (Finding Dory, Captain America: Civil War and Zootropolis) have already tipped the billion dollar mark in 2016, the market is perceived to be down, making topping the charts less of a challenge. And although impressive, Rogue One‘s pre-sales pale in comparison to those for last December’s Star Wars: A Force Awakens, which went on to make $2.1bn.”

Ultimately, the sense behind capping the success of Rogue One is there if one wishes to protect the “prime” films of Episodes VIII and IX, considering the new box office environment of faltering overall ticket sales and the amount of money Disney is investing in each film.

With Rogue One, considered a “standalone” Star Wars film, the House of Mouse invested more than $200 million in the production alone. The film is an experiment as far as George Lucas’s sci-fi property is concerned because it will not tell a continuing narrative.

It is “one-and-done” in a universe that has, in the past, banked on endearing characters that span multiple films.

It does not even have the iconic Star Wars opening crawl.

All that said, industry forecasters are expecting it to top out at about $1.4 billion. Even if there is a 2.5 multiple on marketing expenses, that will mean a profit of close to $1 billion.

So why are some questioning whether Disney wants true success with Rogue One, and why is the theory being postulated that it could be the company’s last major hit with the Star Wars Universe?

Firstly, you have to understand that with Star Wars films of any kind, “hit” or “success” means something different than mere profitability. The company had to lay out over $4 billion to purchase the properties from Lucas in 2012, and at that time, it was widely considered a steal.

The reputation and history behind it transcends basic Hollywood bookkeeping. A Star Wars movie has to make $1 billion in profits — not just gross — in this age of box office, or its success is somewhat shrug-worthy.

Looking back over time, box office performance for Star Wars films has faded after its initial comeback flourishes. Box Office Mojo numbers show that in actual ticket sales — the only real metric that will give a clear idea of box office performance outside of adjusting for inflation — previous Star Wars trilogies have seen sharp declines in moviegoer enthusiasm.

Examples: Episode IV (A New Hope) has sold more than 175 million tickets in its release history, but Episode V (The Empire Strikes Back, widely considered the best in the series) has only moved 98.18 million. Return of the Jedi, the original trilogy’s conclusion, sold even fewer than that at 94 million.

Likewise, the prequel trilogy saw an immediate spike in interest with 90.312 million tickets sold for Episode I (The Phantom Menace). Both followups sold less than 60 million tickets apiece. Enter Star Wars: The Force Awakens, which landed last Christmas with five years of curiosity regarding what Disney would do with it fueling ticket pre-sales.

The film ended up grossing $2.1 billion and selling more than 101 million tickets. History indicates it’s all downhill from there.

Therefore, if Rogue One does top out at just $1.4 billion and the remainder of Disney’s Star Wars films reach a plateau below that while the cost of making and marketing the films continues to rise, Star Wars may no longer be the property it was.

With more people losing faith in their institutions — see this past election season, the decline of religion, etc. — Star Wars may be the next to fall.

Star Wars Past Box Office Performance

But what do you think, readers? Is Rogue One going to be the franchise’s last massive hit in terms of profitability? Sound off in the comments section below.

[Featured Image by Disney/Lucasfilm]