'Star Wars' Takes Gungan-like Dive at the Box Office

Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker has been number one at the box office for the past three weekends-- partly because it's a friggin' Star Wars movie, partly because its main competition was a sexually-frustrated, feline nightmare that promptly bombed as soon as it was unleashed upon society. But while that might initially sound positive, the details paint a much more worrying picture for the Star Wars franchise.

The Rise of Skywalker raked in over $177 million in its opening weekend, but that's far less than the juggernaut that was The Force Awakens and even short of 2017's The Last Jedi. Another concern is the percentage The Rise of Skywalker dropped per week; by the third weekend it made just 81% of the business it did in its opening, making it the third-worst percentage drop of all-time. The very worst is Avengers: Endgame, but that's because nearly every human being rushed out to see it opening weekend when it made a staggering $357 million.

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And while Star Wars has never been wildly successful in China (where the original movie existed only in wacky comic form for decades) this year Disney actively courted the Chinese market, priming audiences for the new movie by translating forty Star Wars books and commissioning a new "authentic Star Wars story with Chinese characteristics" penned by popular Chinese internet author "His Majesty the King"-- presumably because books written by someone with the name "King" tend to sell well.

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So how did The Rise of Skywalker do in China? It made a "dismal" $12 million in the first weekend, and will likely "struggle to crack $20 million". Incidentally, Knives Out directed by The Rise of Skywalker's meta punching bag Rian Johnson has already made $28 million in China. So there's that.

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Why did so many people not show up for the conclusion to the Skywalker Saga? Was it the crappy reviews? Or Star Wars fatigue? Well, the public generally don't care about reviews that much. And it would be easier to believe that audiences were sick of Star Wars if we weren't smack in the middle of Baby Yoda-mania. One possibility is that because The Last Jedi didn't end on a cliffhanger the way The Empire Strikes Back did, so there was no "need-to-see" element of the new movie. Had Episode VIII ended with a gun to BB-8's head, maybe things would have been different.

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