Advance ticket sales for Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker are pacing with 2017’s Star Wars: The Last Jedi at the same point in their Fandango cycle. We heard from other exhibition sources that a $200 million-plus opening is within reach. Also working greatly in favor of business this weekend: 15% of K-12 schools are out on break Friday, with another 79% colleges. Those numbers jump to 96% and 97%, respectively, by Monday.
When Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker tickets went on sale on Monday, October 21, the pic was beating all other Star Wars installments in its opening hours, while Atom Tickets, which only covers a small share of the online ticket business pegged to millennials, reported it saw the company’s second-best first-day sales behind Avengers: Endgame.
No one is expecting Thursday night previews to be at the level of Force Awakens, which made $57M and recently was unseated by Avengers: Endgame $60M as the best domestic preview night of all time. The Last Jedi earned $45M in previews, while Rogue One in 2016 did $29M and Solo $14.1M. Expect Skywalker‘s Thursday night, which kicks off at 5 PM with fan shows at 450 locations and 6 PM for nationwide previews, to be around the Last Jedi range.
Reviews hit tonight at 12:01 AM PT, and if its great word of mouth, then all these low-wattage projections go out the window. Skywalker repped more than 70% of Fandango's Tuesday morning ticket sales.
Skywalker is booked at 4,300 theaters comprised of 3,200 3D locations, 415 Imax screens, 850 Premium Large Format screens and 275 D-Box/4D locations. Additionally, 21 theaters in major markets will run nine-film Star Wars marathons kicking off Wednesday evening, leading into the Thursday 5 PM showing of Skywalker.
Per a Fandango survey of more than 1,000 millennial moviegoers:
–91% are preparing for Skywalker by watching Last Jedi while 86% are watching Force Awakens.
–83% are taking a break from social media to avoid all spoilers for Skywalker.
–73% have seen every single film in the Star Wars franchise.
–Nearly half plan on seeing Skywalker on the big screen at least twice during the holidays.
“As the journey nears its end, Skywalker is forging a new empire of fans who can't wait to experience the terrific finale of the nine-film Skywalker series, stuffed with action, adventure, humor, heart, inspiration, new heroes, plus the welcome return of Billy Dee Williams as Lando,” Fandango managing editor Erik Davis said. “Seeing a Star Wars film on the big screen is a family holiday tradition, and according to our survey, fans will return to the theater multiple times over the next few weeks for repeat Skywalker viewings.”
There’s one particularly telling and effective moment in The Skywalker Legacy, the feature-lenght documentary that’s included on the Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker home release that sums up much of the ambivalence and consternation that some had with J.J. Abrams’ return to the Star Wars universe. After showing the intricate construction of a giant, practical snake monster, the doc cuts back to footage of Jabba The Hutt, that old analogue beast that slithered its way into our hearts. The sentiment is clear – we’re making movies like we used to! A celebration of practical effects, the dripping of k-y jelly to give viscosity just like the old costume days, it’s all there. There’s excitement on set, everyone talking about how amazing it looks, how lifelike, how this is how you’re supposed to do movies like this.
Cut to Visual Effects Supervisor Roger Guyett who shatters the myth, letting us know the creature was replaced by a CGI version in post.
Guyett’s resume is mighty. Having made his bones on groundbreaking films like Twister and Casper, he helped Spielberg bring the events of D-Day to screen in Saving Private Ryan, helped bring to life the best looking film in the Harry Potter series, Alfonso Cuarón’s Prisoner of Azkaban, and even made the theatrical version of Rent feel more than a stage production. Guyett has had many collaborations with Abrams – from the Star Trek Reboots through The Force Awakens and The Rise of Skywalker he was even second unit director on the former, as well as working with George Lucas on Episode III to round off the prequels. He’s in a unique position to speak to these changing landscapes of epic filmmaking.
We spoke at length about the apparent contradictions and indulgences in making a Star Wars film, and he made the case for why nothing was wasted and all contributed to the final presentation. He was erudite and open to the discussion, making for a dream conversation with a man who quite literally has helped shape what amazes us on screen for decades.
The following has been edited for clarity and concision.
We see practical effects being championed as almost a marketing ploy with the “postquels” as a mix of nostalgia and an attempt to delineate from Lucas’ second trilogy. In some ways the love of the practically-realized snake undercuts the extraordinary CGI you and your team accomplished, and raises questions about why the need to fetishize the on-set inclusions when they’re replaced anyway. Could you talk about that ethos, that somehow doing stuff on a computer is a “cheat” while doing an effect practically is not?
I think at the end of the day we’re all trying to do the best that we can, trying to make the best, most dramatic or emotional movie we can visually. I’m coming from figuring out how do you get the most...