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Box office: The Rise of Skywalker bows out the Star Wars saga with Death Star-sized $176 million debut

By Josh Weiss
The Rise of Skywalker

Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker has been splitting fans like Obi-Wan split Darth Maul in Episode I, but that divisiveness hasn't affected the film's box office debut. The ninth and final Star Wars episode took in a most impressive $176 million from its opening weekend alone. While that falls shy of the opening numbers for The Force Awakens ($248 million) and The Last Jedi ($220 million), the figure still represents one of the largest debuts of any release in 2019.

It's also the third-biggest opening for any film in December, after TFA and TLJ. The Force Awakens is the highest-grossing domestic release of all time, with $936 million. At the global box office, Episode VII collected $2 billion. Domestically, The Last Jedi, which also divided fans, brought in over $620 million. Internationally, it made over $1.3 billion. The total of $176 million for Rise of Skywalker falls in line with early projections, which estimated that the blockbuster would take in $175 - $200 million on opening weekend.

Internationally TRoS has brought in $374 million.

Despite its successful opening, Rise of Skywalker—which wraps up 42 years of galactic storytelling—currently holds the second-worst Rotten Tomatoes score of all the live-action episodes. With a 57%, it's just four points ahead of 1999's The Phantom Menace. If we're counting animated entries, the 2008 Clone Wars movie has the worst score, with 18%.

Directed and co-written by J.J. Abrams (The Force Awakens), The Rise of Skywalker is set a year after the events of Rian Johnson's The Last Jedi.

Following the devastating Battle of Crait, the Resistance is on its last leg and facing annihilation from an unexpected enemy: Emperor Sheev Palpatine (a returning Ian McDiarmid). Hoping to destroy ol' Sheev and save the galaxy, Rey (Daisy Ridley), Finn (John Boyega), Poe (Oscar Isaac), C-3PO (Anthony Daniels), Chewie (Joonas Suotamo), and BB-8 set out on a dangerous mission to find the fabled Sith homeworld of Exegol. Hot on their heels is the dastardly Kylo Ren (Adam Driver) and his band of not-so-merry men, the famous Knights of Ren.

Packed with plenty of callbacks and cameos to the eight movies that came before it, The Rise of Skywalker co-stars Carrie Fisher (General Leia Organa was brought back via eight minutes of unused footage from TFA), Billy Dee Williams (Lando Calrissian), Keri Russell (Zorrii Bliss), Naomi Ackie (Jannah), Richard E. Grant (Allegiant General Pryde), Kelly Marie Tran (Rose Tico), Mark Hamill (Luke Skywalker), Domhnall Gleeson (General Hux), Greg Grunberg (Snap Wexley), Billie Lourd (Kaydel Ko Connix), and Dominic Monaghan (Beaumont Kin).

The Rise of Skywalker

Chris Terrio (Argo, Batman v Superman) penned the script with Abrams. Colin Trevorrow (Jurassic World), who was originally going to direct Episode IX, received story credit alongside his usual writing partner, Derek Connolly.

Elsewhere, Cats is proving that felines don't always land on their feet. Tom Hooper's CGI-heavy adaptation of the beloved Andrew Lloyd Webber stage play bombed hard during its domestic debut, with just $6.5 million. Overseas, it made just $4.4 million from ticket sales in the U.K. and Ireland.

That falls well below expectations of $15 million for the film, which boasts an all-star ensemble of Taylor Swift, Idris Elba, Judi Dench, Jason Derulo, Jennifer Hudson, Ian McKellen, James Corden, and Rebel Wilson.

Adding to the project's bad press (already pretty bad after critics everywhere published their bottom-of-the-litter-box reviews), The Hollywood Reporter was able to confirm that a newer version of Cats with updated visual effects was being shipped out to theaters this weekend.

Genre holdover Jumanji: The Next Level took the No. 2 spot but fell 56% during its second weekend, bringing in another $26.2 million in North America. Since last week, the video game-based sequel has scored $102 million at the domestic box office. By its second weekend in 2017, Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle was well on its way to surpassing $200 million domestically. That being said, it didn't have a Star Wars movie to compete against for sales.

Now playing in its fifth weekend, Frozen II secured third place with an additional $12.4 million domestically. At home, the animated sequel has iced $386.6 million. Globally, the follow-up has made a chilly $1.04 billion.

Jumanji The Next Level & Frozen II

(via Variety & Box Office Mojo)