2nd UPDATE SATURDAY AM: It’s truly a bittersweet Memorial Day weekend at the box office.
While Disney’s Solo: A Star Wars Storyis coming in $15.8M shy of its low-end $130M forecast with an estimated 4-day figure of $114.2M, the overall holiday stretch is booming with an estimated $231M, +27% over last year’s $181.4M, not to mention it’s the best Memorial Day weekend since 2014 when X-Men: Days of Future Past ruled with $110.5M. Solo‘s Friday, including $14.1M previews, is landing at $35.8M.
On the plus side, Solo‘s projections have improved since this morning, and in exit polls, audiences don’t loathe it in a Batman v. Superman kind of way, giving the Star Wars spinoff an 89% overall positive on ComScore/Screen Engine’s PostTrak and an A- CinemaScore. That’s the first A- for a Disney Star Wars title (which until now have all earned As), but right in line with the grades of Episodes I-III. While moviegoers are slow to arrive to Solo perhaps due to skepticism, hopefully those leaving the auditorium will preach the good word, and PostTrak shows a healthy 73% definite recommend.
Some commenters here are eager to declare Solo an all-out failure in the Justice League sense of the word, but it’s still too premature. The film could see a spike in younger audiences today and tomorrow. However, at this minute it’s a blasé start for a Disney Star Wars title considering the hope the studio had for a new franchise. Furthermore, with overseas collapsing, profit is doubtful on Solo especially when factoring in an estimated production cost well north of $300M before P&A. Unlike other event titles, recent Disney Star Wars movies aren’t driven by overseas ticket sales where foreign reps 60% or more of a title’s global B.O.
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But, really, why is Solo flying so low?
Most rival distribution sources argue it’s less about the spinoff’s behind-the-scenes melodrama in its change-up of directors or the fact that Alden Ehrenreich doesn’t look like a young Harrison Ford, but rather that Disney is pumping out another Star Wars way too soon.
“They’re over-saturating the market with Star Wars, and bleeding the golden goose! We just had The Last Jedi!” yelled one distribution boss on Friday. But wait a minute, what about those Marvel movies? Avengers: Infinity Wararrived two months after Black Panther. Our sources believe that the Marvel movies are disparate in their universe, and that’s why they work in close proximity to each other on the release schedule. Star Wars is a different animal whereby anticipation is ratcheted up in how far apart the movies are spread on the calendar.
Another factor in why Solo is the lowest of all Disney Star Wars titles is because it’s playing during the summer. Force Awakens, Last Jedi and Rogue One fared better because there was less tentpole competition during the year-end holiday: Those movies were the main event. Returning Star Wars back to summer puts Solo in a tentpole sandwich with other big pics around it: This weekend alone Deadpool 2and Infinity War combined will account for $76.4M business, and that’s money that Solo can’t claim.
The irony is that if we were living immediately in a Disney-Fox merger, this entire analysis is arguably moot considering that both studios are projected to control 83% of the four-day box office with $192M from Solo, Deadpool 2, Infinity War, Black Panther, Super Troopers 2, and Isle of Dogs.
Finally, Solo arrived to the marketplace with too much baggage for a Star Wars movie. Yes, there was noise about Tony Gilroy fixing Rogue One as both a director and writer during its final phases of production, but it wasn’t as loud as what went on here with Solo. When the Super Bowl trailers dropped, already there was a jaded response from fans, and much of that comes from the whole firing of Phil Lord and Christopher Miller, Ehrenreich’s looks, the pic’s dark Blade Runner 2049 tone and, yes, frustration over Luke Skywalker getting killed off at the end of Last Jedi. Distribution executives swear that any behind-the-scenes turmoil doesn’t factor into the average consumer’s movie ticket purchasing decisions. But seriously, it’s the social media age, and negative buzz has the potential to quickly capsize a film and even cloud a critic’s judgement, witness Solo‘s 71% Rotten Tomatoes score. A wise studio marketing chief once told me around the time when Ghost in the Shell drowned in its whitewashing controversy that if you’re trying to generate solid word of mouth, a wrench thrown in doesn’t help as you’re getting to the finish line. Negative buzz can easily distract audiences from whatever message you’re hoping to convey.
Also given how precious Star Wars fans can be, casting is tricky when producing these movies about the younger lives of its legendary heroes. RelishMix in its updated social media conversation analysis reports, “Some people really do have an issue with Ehrenreich as the title character, that he doesn’t look like the original Han while Donald Glover as a younger Lando definitely fits…Convo is mixed. We have folks coming out of Thursday screenings saying, ‘The film’s great, Chewie is awesome, Lando really looks like a young Lando should, etc., while others are saying it’s a low point for the series.”
In regards to the high stakes of bringing a young Han Solo to the screen, one distribution source notes, “It’s like casting a young Clark Gable in a remake of Gone With the Wind. Han Solo is one of the most storied characters.” That said, it’s not impossible: Who doesn’t want to see Ewan McGregor return in Stephen Daldry’s young Obi-Wan Kenobi?
Industry estimates for the Memorial Day weekend of May 25-28:
UPDATED, 10:47AM: Industry estimates this morning are pegging around $33M today for Disney’s Solo: A Star Wars Story with a $80M-$90M three-day and $105M-$115M play over four days. That’s a very early read on opening figures, which do not come from Disney. We could see a different picture by tonight. We hear that exit polls showed a four-out-five stars and that there should be a promising turnout by boys tomorrow.
It’s a bittersweet result: On the plus side, it’s a bit of an uptick for a Memorial Day event film at the B.O. after the holiday has been in the doldrums for quite some time; the last big debut for the holiday was X-Men: Days of Future Past with $110Mfour years ago. But on the down side, it’s the lowest opening for a Disney Star Wars pic out of four — and it’s lower than the last 20th Century Fox release, 2005’s Star Wars: Revenge of the Sith ($108.4M 3-day, $158.4M Thursday-Sunday take). On a three day basis, Solo is 45% lower than what Disney/Lucasfilm’s Rogue One: A Star Wars Story cleared with a $155M opening, $71M on its opening day.
As a reference, Warner Bros.’ Justice League made $38.4M on its first day, $93.8M over three, and while it wasn’t a four-day opening, it grossed $101.3M from Friday-Monday.
20th Century Fox’s Deadpool 2 is certainly chipping away at Solo with a $12.5M Friday, $40M-$45M 3-day and $52M-$57M 4-day. On the high end that’s at $221.7M.
Disney’s own Avengers: Infinity War is looking at a $19M-$21M four-day, while Paramount’s Book Club is projected with a $10M-$12M 4-day.
UPDATE, 8:10 AM: Disney/Lucasfilm’s Solo: A Star Wars Story posted $14.1M in Thursday night previews. Disney is calling that a record for a Thursday prior to Memorial Day weekend, exceeding the $13.2M made by Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End on the Thursday prior to its holiday weekend. We already mentioned last night how Solo towers over other Memorial Day weekend previews such as TheHangover Part 2 ($10.4M), X-Men: Apocalypse ($8.2M), X-Men: Days of Future Past ($8.1M), and Fast and Furious 6 ($6.5M). At World‘s End grossed $139.8M over four-days, a Memorial Day record with $153M over five-days. Solo‘s previews rank behind Thor: Ragnarok‘s $14.5M which opened to $122.7M during the first weekend in November.
Meanwhile rivals aren’t impressed with Solo‘s Thursday night. Commenters are crying that Solo‘s preview figure is too close to Justice League‘s $13M which fell apart with a $38.4M opening day and $93.8M weekend. To get to a $140M weekend, Solo will have to do a mid-$40M start, and that may not happen with early morning projections under $115M for four-days. Critics really hated Justice League at 40% Rotten and the difference is Solo‘s RT score is higher at an OK 70% fresh. Heading into the weekend, Disney spotted $130M-$150M, not to mention Solo advance ticket sales were out of the gate in their first 24 hours, besting Black Panther, but we heard they slowed heading into this week.
Among regular ranked movies yesterday, Deadpool 2 earned an estimated $6.75M taking its one week total to $164.7M. Avengers: Infinity War grossed $1.9M for a running total of $605.1M. Paramount’s Book Club was solid with $1.87M and a $22.2M first week.
EXCLUSIVE: Very early estimates indicate that Disney’s Solo: A Star Wars Storyis heading for a $13M-$15M Thursday night. These figures come from Deadline sources, not Disney.
On the high end, that’s in the vicinity of what the studio’s Marvel titles, Thor: Ragnarok ($14.5M) and Iron Man 3 ($15.6M), grossed on their preview nights. Showtimes begin at 7PM in each time zone and once the west coast hits, there’s a possibility that Solo could surge past $15M.
Thursday night for both Ragnarok and Iron Man 3, respectively,repped about 31% and 23% of their Fridays, which came in at $46.4M and $68.8M. Ragnarok turned in a three-day weekend of $122.7M, while Iron Man 3 did $174.1M, so a big swing there, with the latter launching summer during the first weekend of May five years ago.
It’s too soon to tell how Solo will leg out over four days, as there are various factors in play. But by comparison to the previous Star Wars 2016 spinoff pic Rogue One, that film turned in $29M on a December Thursday before posting a Friday of $71M, and three-day opening of $155M. Heading into the weekend, projections for the Ron Howard-directed Star Wars spinoff ranged from as low as $130M over FSSM to as high as $170M. Disney currently holds the Memorial Day opening record with 2007’s Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End ($139.4M). Solo arrives with a Rotten Tomatoes score of 69% fresh, which isn’t the lowest for a Star Wars movie (that belongs to The Phantom Menace at 55% Rotten), but it’s more a popcorn film than it is an overall critics-pleaser, so audiences could push its fortunes higher. And while Memorial Day is seen as the traditional kick-off to summer (it used to be at the box office, long ago), the weather is partly cloudy and blase here in Los Angeles, in the low 70s for the weekend (certainly not beach weather) and that could spike Solo‘s west coast sales.
Solo‘s Thursday night projection towers over other releases that launched over Memorial Day in recent years, including TheHangover Part 2 ($10.4M), X-Men: Apocalypse ($8.2M), X-Men: Days of Future Past ($8.1M), and Fast and Furious 6 ($6.5M).
Solo will play in 4,381 theaters tomorrow, including 3,300 3D locations, 400+ Imax screens, 600+ premium large format screens, and 200+ D-Box locations.
Social Media monitor RelishMix reports that the buzz online is “mixed, with fans out-shouting the naysayers for a positive skew. Fans are sure it’ll be the next great Star Wars entry – and the minority, dubious moviegoers claim this particular tale looks off the mark. On the positive side, the film is touching certain nerves among fans. A Han Solo origin story is naturally of interest to hardcore Star Wars fans, particularly one that tells the story of how the Millennium Falcon became part of Solo’s life, how he met Chewbacca, etc. But also popular in discussion is the stylish-looking Lando and the host of new and strange characters. Ron Howard, who replaced the original directing team, also has the faith of most fans.”
While young Han Solo himself, Alden Ehrenreich, isn’t on social, Emilia Clarke is the film’s social star with 17.2M followers on her official Instagram. Ron Howard counts 3.5M across Twitter, Facebook and Instagram, while Donald Glover has 2.7M followers on his Childish Gambino Instagram and 1.4M on Facebook. Ever since Howard took the directing reigns over from Phil Lord and Christopher Miller, he has been quite passionate about sharing posts from the set, from Paul Bettany boarding as Dryden Vos to Lando’s closet of capes.
Solo: A Star Wars Story has a good social media universe, according to RelishMix, with 442.3M, an SMU that’s lighter then the series standards. Broken out, that’s 162.1M Facebook fans, 52.7M Facebook video views, 32.8M Twitter followers, 129.7M YouTube views, and 65M Instagram followers. The overall SMU easily exceeds a typical action fantasy film’s 194M. Solo’s viral rate of reposted videos of 18:1 is lighter than the genre’s 26:1. Some highlights: Glover’s Lando sketch earned 2.1M views on YouTube on the SNL channel. Check out Howard’s video from Cannes: