‘Star Wars’ $100M opening disappoints

Deborah Vankin
Los Angeles Times

“Solo: A Star Wars Story” didn’t exactly take flight this holiday weekend in the way that Disney had hoped.

The origin story of Han Solo took the top spot at the box office but underperformed, making an estimated $103 million in its first four days in the U.S. and Canada, when it had been expected to gross $140 million to $150 million.

“Solo” — directed by Ron Howard, who replaced Phil Lord and Christopher Miller midway through production — stars Alden Ehrenreich as the title character, along with Emilia Clarke and Donald Glover.

The fact that it’s the second “Star Wars” movie to hit theaters in six months following “The Last Jedi” may have contributed to the weakest opening weekend of any “Star Wars” film since 2002’s “Star Wars: Episode II – Attack of the Clones.”

“Solo” also disappointed abroad, earning just $65 million internationally. When combined with the domestic three-day total of $85 million, “Solo” took in $150 million worldwide in its first three days. By comparison, “The Last Jedi” sold $220 million in tickets in its first three days just in the U.S. and Canada.

About 70 percent of critics on Rotten Tomatoes gave “Solo” a positive review, calling it flawed yet fun. Audiences gave “Solo” an A-minus on CinemaScore. All of Disney’s previous “Star Wars” movies have received A ratings.

The tepid performance of “Solo” raises the question: Just how much “Star Wars” do audiences have an appetite for? The window of time between “Last Jedi” and “Solo” was the smallest ever between “Star Wars” films. The original three pictures and the prequel trilogies that followed were released with three years between them, forcing audiences to wait, their anticipation mounting. The more recent Disney “Star Wars” releases have been at least one year apart.

“It’s only been five months since ‘Last Jedi’ and it made a billion dollars worldwide. And it played heavy for months,” said ComScore senior media analyst Paul Dergarabedian. “For some people, that movie is still fresh in their minds. People have a limited amount of time and pocketbook money.”

That was compounded, Dergarabedian added, by competition over the weekend. “The top three films this weekend – ‘Solo,’ ‘Deadpool 2’ and ‘Avengers: Infinity War’ are all chasing the hearts, minds and pocketbooks of very similar audiences.”

A Disney spokesperson was not available for comment.

Whereas “Last Jedi” and 2016’s “Rogue One” featured the more female-driven narratives of Rey (Daisy Ridley) and Jyn (Felicity Jones), “Solo” has the boy posse of Han Solo, Lando Calrissian (Glover) and Chewbacca (Joonas Suotamo). ComScore’s survey indicated that “Solo” was drawing an audience that was 60 percent male.

“People who saw it really enjoyed the movie,” Dergarabedian said, adding that 81 percent give it a positive score.

In second place for the weekend was 20th Century Fox’s “Deadpool 2.” The Marvel comedy starring Ryan Reynolds as a foul-mouthed antihero brought in $55 million over the four-day holiday weekend. That puts the domestic cumulative total at nearly $220 million for the film, directed by David Leitch. By comparison, the original “Deadpool” brought in $241.3 million in its first 11 days.

Disney’s “Avengers: Infinity War,” in its fifth week, was third. The Marvel movie, which L.A. Times critic Justin Chang called a “brisk, propulsive, occasionally rousing and borderline-gutsy continuation of a saga,” brought in $21.2 million over the four-day period, bringing its domestic box office haul to $626.4 million.

Paramount’s counterprogramming of “Book Club” — starring Diane Keaton, Jane Fonda, Candice Bergen and Mary Steenburgen — finished fourth with $12.5 million in its second weekend. Rounding out the top five: “Life of the Party,” the Melissa McCarthy comedy directed by husband Ben Falcone, made $6.9 million in its third weekend.

“RBG,” the Magnolia Pictures documentary on Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, made the top 10. It grossed $1.6 million over the long weekend and topped $6 million total in its fourth weekend.

The four-day Memorial Day weekend as a whole was stronger than last year, bringing in $225 million in ticket sales, about 24 percent higher than in 2017.