‘Last Jedi’ has huge open­ing

The Standard Journal - - ENTERTAINMENT - By Jake Coyle AP Film Writer Daisy Ri­d­ley re­turns as Rey in “Star Wars: The Last Jedi.”

NEW YORK — “Star Wars: The Last Jedi” will hap­pily set­tle for sec­ond.

Rian John­son’s sec­ond in­stall­ment in the third “Star Wars” tril­ogy rock­eted to a de­but of $ 220 mil­lion at the North Amer­i­can box of­fice, ac­cord­ing to stu­dio es­ti­mates fol­low­ing the block­buster open­ing of the lat­est in­stall­ment of the se­ries.

That gives “The Last Jedi” the sec­ond- best open­ing ever, slot­ting in be­hind only its pre­de­ces­sor, “The Force Awak­ens.”

The Dis­ney block­buster be­came just the fourth film to open above $200 mil­lion do­mes­ti­cally.

Aside from “The Force Awak­ens” ($248.8 mil­lion), the others are “The Avengers” ($207.4 mil­lion) and “Juras­sic World” ($208.8 mil­lion). Ac­count­ing for in­fla­tion, the de­but of 2012’s “The Avengers” would roughly tie with “The Last Jedi.”

“The Last Jedi” is off to a sim­i­lar start over­seas, too, with $230 mil­lion in in­ter­na­tional ticket sales, said Dis­ney. That brings its three­day global haul to $450 mil­lion.

The open­ing also gave the Walt Dis­ney Co. the op­por­tu­nity to flex its mus­cles on the heels of the deal an­nounced this month for it to pur­chase 21st Cen­tury Fox for $52.4 bil­lion. As part of the deal, Dis­ney will take con­trol of 20th Cen­tury Fox, one of Hol­ly­wood’s six ma­jor stu­dios.

“The week­end that we’re in is a byprod­uct of the fore­sight and vi­sion from our CEO Bob Iger to bring Lu­cas­film into the fold,” said Dis­ney dis­tri­bu­tion chief Dave Hol­lis, al­lud­ing to Dis­ney’s 2012 pur­chase of Lu­cas­film. “So as we think about the pos­si­bil­ity of other things be­ing added, you can’t help but be ex­cited about the pos­si­bil­i­ties.”

Fox, as it hap­pens, was the only stu­dio to open an­other new widere­lease film against “The Last Jedi.” Its fam­ily film, “Fer­di­nand,” was es­sen­tially stam­peded by “The Last Jedi,” gross­ing $13.3 mil­lion. “Fer­di­nand” and other up­com­ing holiday sea­son re­leases will look for more room in the com- ing weeks, once the “Star Wars” tsunami has waned.

While Abrams’ re­boot cap­i­tal­ized on a decade’s hia­tus for “Star Wars,” John­son’s se­quel didn’t have the same ben­e­fit of fresh­ness. It fol­lows not only “The Force Awak­ens” (which ul­ti­mately grossed $2.1 bil­lion) but last year’s spinoff, “Rogue One.” That re­lease opened with $155.1 mil­lion, and grossed in to­tal lit­tle more than $1 bil­lion glob­ally.

John­son, who wrote and di­rected, in­stead aimed to dis­tin­guish “The Last Jedi” by in­tro­duc­ing some new tones to George Lu­cas’ space opera. “The Last Jedi” is more ir­rev­er­ent than pre­vi­ous chap­ters. And it has drawn plau­dits for its di­verse cast, in­clud­ing Daisy Ri­d­ley, John Boyega and new­comer Kelly Marie Tran.

“The re­sults speak to the power of rep­re­sen­ta­tion,” said Hol­lis. “The film re­ally re­flects our world and be­yond. It be­comes some­thing peo­ple can see them­selves in, whether they see them­selves in Rey or Finn or Poe or Rose or Cap­tain Phasma. They can re­late to all those char­ac­ters.”

John­son’s ap­proach has seemed to work. Crit­ics gave John­son’s film a 93 per­cent fresh rat­ing on Rot­ten Toma­toes. Au­di­ences en­dorsed it, too, with an A Cine­maS­core, though not all fans are on board with John­son’s in­no­va­tions. As of Sun­day, “The Last Jedi” has scored a dis­mal 56 per­cent rat­ing from some 95,000 Rot­ten Tomato users.

Yet the haul for “The Last Jedi” dwarfed most all re­leases in the two years since “The Force Awak­ens.”

By com­par­i­son, in the open­ing three days the film al­ready bested the five-week gross of Warner Bros.’ “Jus­tice League” ($ 219.5 mil­lion).

“See­ing a movie like this in the movie theater, get­ting the col­lec­tive goose bumps and hav­ing the OMG-mo­ments, that’s some­thing you can­not repli­cate at home on the small screen,” said Paul Der­garabe­dian, se­nior me­dia an­a­lyst for comS­core. “Rian John­son has made a movie that show­cases the movie theater ex­pe­ri­ence in a truly bril­liant way.”

Sig­nal­ing its faith in John­son’s course for “Star Wars,” Lu­cas­film ear­lier an­nounced that John­son will de­velop the next tril­ogy for the fran­chise, the first of which he’ll write and di­rect. Abrams is set to re­turn to di­rect Episode IX af­ter he was brought in to re­place Colin Trevor­row. A sep­a­rate spinoff cen­tered on a young Han Solo is due out next sum­mer.

The mas­sive de­but for “The Last Jedi” sin­gle­hand­edly bright­ens what has been a dis­ap­point­ing year for Hol­ly­wood. The open­ing week­end was far and away the high­est gross­ing of the year. Ac­cord­ing to comS­core, the in­dus­try was down about 3.9 per­cent from last year be­fore the Dec. 15 de­but.

Lu­cas­film via AP

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