- “Solo: A Star Wars Story” earned an estimated $83 million over three days and $101 million by Memorial Day.
- That’s $29 million under original industry low-end projections for the movie.
- This marks the lowest opening for a “Star Wars” movie since 2002’s “Attack of the Clones” (not counting inflation).
- “Solo” is the latest victim of disappointing Memorial Day weekend releases.
It turns out “Star Wars” is not bulletproof.
The beloved franchise released its latest “A Star Wars Story” movie over Memorial Day weekend by telling the origin story of the space scoundrel Han Solo, and it greatly underperformed.
“Solo: A Star Wars Story” earned an estimated $83 million domestically over the weekend and is projected to take in $101 million by Memorial Day, according to Exhibitor Relations. That’s $29 million off what the industry had for the movie’s low-end projection.
In the middle of last week, “Solo” was projected to earn $130 million to $150 million on 4,381 screens. If that held, “Solo” would be set up as the latest “Star Wars” movie to have a record-breaking box-office opening – taking the crown from 2007’s “Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End,” the Memorial Day record holder with $139.8 million.
But by the end of Friday, Disney hinted that the weekend wouldn’t go according to plan as it drastically adjusted that projection to a range of $105 million to $115 million over the four-day weekend.
A $101 million performance by Memorial Day would be strong for a movie at any other studio – especially over a holiday weekend when audiences would rather be outside than in a theater – but for a “Star Wars” movie this just doesn’t cut it.
“Solo” went into the weekend on a strong note. The movie took in $14.1 million at Thursday-night previews, a record for Memorial Day (beating “At World’s End,” which took in $13.2 million). But there were signs the movie would not be a huge moneymaker like other “Star Wars” movies that have been released since Disney bought the franchise.
Even if “Solo” hit the high end of its original industry projections, it wasn’t likely to have the opening weekend of 2016’s “Rogue One,” a film with the “Star Wars Story” branding that took in $155 million.
The opening three-day performance by “Solo” is the lowest for a “Star Wars” movie since 2002’s “Star Wars: Episode II – Attack of the Clones,” which took in $80 million. But back in 2002 that was quite a feat – counting inflation, that would be a $126.1 million opening in 2018.
“Solo” may have had in-production drama – the movie’s original directors, Phil Lord and Chris Miller, were fired over creative differences and replaced by Ron Howard – but you can’t equate that with its poor box office.
“Rogue One” had its own drama, as the director Gareth Edwards had to take a backseat to the more experienced helmer Tony Gilroy during reshoots for the movie, and that went on to earn over $1 billion at the global box office.
The weak performance by “Solo” has been attributed more to three big obstacles: timing, “Star Wars” fatigue, and lackluster reviews.
Opening over the Memorial Day weekend, “Star Wars” was thrown headfirst into a cutthroat summer movie season (the previously released hits “Avengers: Infinity War” and “Deadpool 2” being the main combatants). It’s a much more competitive time at multiplexes than December, which had been the home for “Star Wars” movies since 2015’s “The Force Awakens.”
Also, over the past decade American moviegoers have been less inclined to visit the theater over Memorial Day weekend, which is viewed by much of the country as a chance to be outside in the warming weather.
Last year, “Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales” opened over Memorial Day weekend and took in $78.4 million from Friday to Monday. That was just under its projections of $80 million to $85 million and the lowest opening for a “Pirates” movie since the first one, 2003’s “Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl” ($46.6 million).
Other movies that opened over Memorial Day weekend and were DOA include “Tomorrowland” ($33 million opening weekend), “Alice Through the Looking Glass” ($26.8 million), and “X-Men: Apocalypse” ($65.7 million).
In this field, the “Solo” opening doesn’t look so bad. But the rules change when you talk about “Star Wars.”
Yes, “Star Wars” fatigue is a thing. With “Solo” opening five months after “The Last Jedi,” audiences just weren’t motivated for another story from the saga that quickly, even one about one of its most legendary characters.
You could make the argument that Marvel released “Avengers: Infinity War” two months after “Black Panther” and there certainly wasn’t any fatigue with the Marvel Cinematic Universe. But that instance featured an origin story followed by an established Avengers movie. It also didn’t hurt that “Infinity War” practically starred every character from the MCU. Audiences weren’t exhausted; they were pumped up for it. Also, things are a lot easier when both of the two movies are great.
If “Solo” were a better movie, this would all be moot. But with its 71% rating on the reviews aggregator Rotten Tomatoes, the lowest score for a “Star Wars” film since “Attack of the Clones,” it did not possess the “have to see it first weekend” hype of the other “Star Wars” movies.