Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker’s opening weekend was less than half of Avengers: Endgame’s record-breaking debut. On the heels of last summer’s Solo: A Star Wars Story becoming the first box office bomb in Star Wars history (grossing only $392.9 million worldwide), many expected The Rise of Skywalker to be a return to form for the franchise, commercially speaking. Not only was the property returning to December (where Lucasfilm found tremendous success from 2015-2017), The Rise of Skywalker felt like a true cinematic event for the holiday season. Marketing made no attempt to hide the fact this was the culmination of the Skywalker saga, which began in 1977.

In some respects, The Rise of Skywalker bore similarities to another Disney mega blockbuster from 2019, Avengers: Endgame. Much like The Rise of Skywalker, Endgame marked the grand conclusion of an industry-defining film series (the Infinity Saga), tying up multiple character arcs and story threads before the franchise collectively moves to a new era. It would have been quite an accomplishment if The Rise of Skywalker had been able to even come close to Endgame’s whopping $357.1 million domestic opening weekend, but the prevailing thought was it would post numbers worthy of an epic finale. Unfortunately, the box office results for the two are night and day.

In its first weekend, The Rise of Skywalker secured the top spot on the charts with $176 million domestically. At first glance, that looks like a strong haul, but a deeper analysis into the numbers highlights problems. That haul is by far the lowest in the sequel trilogy, trailing The Force Awakens’ $247.9 million and The Last Jedi’s $220 million. More concerning is the fact The Rise of Skywalker’s opening is only slightly higher than spinoff Rogue One, which debuted with $155 million in December 2016. And the numbers obviously aren’t in the same area code as Endgame’s. The fact The Rise of Skywalker outgrossed Solo ($84.4 million) isn’t exactly cause for celebration. These numbers paint a dark picture.

The box office is the clearest example of how the MCU and Star Wars have traded places in Hollywood’s franchise hierarchy. In 2015, The Force Awakens easily earned more than Avengers: Age of Ultron and became the third film in history to earn $2 billion worldwide. This year, Endgame topped Avatar’s seemingly impossible all-time record and The Rise of Skywalker’s opening weekend was lower than the Lion King remake ($191.7 million). Word-of-mouth is the most likely reason for the striking difference between the two hauls. Whereas Endgame was praised for being a loving celebration of the MCU’s first 10 years that provided meaningful emotional payoffs, The Rise of Skywalker was marred by backlash and caused another stark critic/fan divide, which likely hurt its appeal. It’s also important to note Marvel spent years building up to Endgame, planting the earliest Thanos seeds in 2012. When it finally came time to pay that off, audiences were ready and came out in droves. Star Wars is still big, the modern incarnation hasn’t been around as long as the MCU, which might have also played a factor.

To be fair, Endgame isn’t a fair standard to hold other movies against. It was an unprecedented, generational cinematic event, the likes of which Marvel will likely never replicate. For all the hype, The Rise of Skywalker is no less than the third time Star Wars has ended, so there’s a feeling of “been here, done that” associated with it. But even if Endgame’s record was never really attainable, it’s still alarming The Rise of Skywalker couldn’t even crack $200 million domestically. It’ll be interesting to see what happens as the film’s box office run progresses over the holidays and into January. The Rise of Skywalker will be able to turn a profit (against its sizable budget), but it’s probably for the best Star Wars is taking some time off after this.

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