‘Rogue One: A Star Wars Story’ Has Forcefull Debut, Pulls In $71 Million On Opening Night

Apparently, the force WAS with Rogue One: A Star Wars Story on its opening night in the box office, as the much-anticipated latest installment in the Star Wars saga pulled in more than $71 million in the U.S. at the box office.

This amount positioned Rogue One as the third best debut for the year, closely trailing Hollywood mega-blockbusters Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice ($81 million) and Captain America: Civil War ($75 million), per Forbes.

Vader

Remember, however, that the Star Wars side-story film was only third for its “opening night” Friday crowd, which no doubt competed with would-be moviegoers either doing last-minute Holiday preparations or, in portions of the densely populated northeastern United States, dealing with below-freezing temperatures, snow, sleet, hail, and foggy conditions.

For its Thursday night debut, Rogue One: A Star Wars Story earned an additional $29 million, giving it the lead in 2016 for “preview” night numbers.

Plus, Rogue One is not expected to be going anywhere for quite a while, to the delight of new star Felicity Jones.

Such longevity will certainly be needed for the Star Wars sequel if it is to beat out Batman v Superman and Captain America, which pulled in $166 million and $179 million, respectively, during the length of their movie theater runs. Which, again, proves that opening nights do not mean everything.

In fact, Forbes noted, Rogue One has even taken a unique path from the previously-released future film documenting things to come, The Force Awakens. Forbes writer Scott Mendelson noted the following.

“The Gareth Edwards-directed sci-fi action-er [Rogue One: A Star Wars Story], a prequel to the original Star Wars film, earned 40.8% of its Friday gross via Thursday previews. Comparatively, The Force Awakens earned $57 million on Thursday (47.8%) for a record-breaking $119.1m “Friday” gross.”

Rogue One also had the 12th biggest “debut night” numbers of all time, falling in between The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn Part I (71.6 million) and The Hunger Games: Catching Fire ($70.9 million).

So clearly, Rogue One keeps some good company.

Some expect that the new Star Wars prequel is also a sign of many future blockbusters to come for Disney, which acquired the franchise’s parent company LucasFilm in 2012 for $4.1 billion, and subsequently announced plans to release films from the Star Wars universe annually — jumping between stand-alone side-story films and proper “episodes” each year — through at least 2020.

“[Star Wars] is one of the great entertainment properties of all time, one of the best branded and one of the most valuable, and it’s just fantastic for us to have the opportunity to both buy it, run it and grow it,” said Disney’s CEO Robert Iger at the time of the purchase, according to USA Today.

The Star Wars acquisition is Disney’s fourth largest of all time.

Vader with Storm Troopers

“Our long term plan is to release a new Star Wars feature film every two to three years,” said Iger at the time, while also noting that “We really like Star Wars‘ potential on TV as well, and we think [cable-satellite channel] Disney XD will be a great home for that.”

So, of course, Disney execs must be excited with the first two film releases with several more on the horizon for the Star Wars franchise.

“To be clear, absolutely no one was expecting this film to perform like last year’s hotly anticipated [The Force Awakens],” said Forbes’ Mendelson, who noted that the Star Wars: Return of the Jedi followup was “one was the first new live-action Star Wars movie in a decade and the first ‘present tense’ installment, with Harrison Ford and Carrie Fisher among others back on board, in 33 years.”

With tempered expectations, however, and a relatively unknown cast including Jones (Jyn Erso), Diego Luna (Cassian Andor), Donnie Yen (Chirrut Imwe), and Ben Mendelsohn (Orson Krennic), Rogue One: A Star Wars Story was set up to be successful with a smaller budget than some of the other Star Wars films.

And, many believe, Rogue One could still top the Hollywood charts for the year when all is said and done.

[Featured Image by Mike Windle/Getty Images]