Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker is now the fifth Star Wars movie to reach the billion-dollar milestone, the seventh Disney movie released in 2019 to cross it, ninth movie of 2019 in general, and the forty-sixth movie in history, when not accounting for inflation.
The Wrap reports that the running total on Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker is now over $1 billion, with a total of over $481 million domestically and $520 million internationally. The movie reached this goal on Tuesday night, after 28 days in theaters around the globe, which was slower than The Force Awakens (which got there in 12 days) and The Last Jedi (which got there in 19 days) but faster than Rogue One (which got there in 39 days). The film would have reached the milestone faster had it released a week earlier, which would have been consistent with the release pattern on the other two movies (which also saw a bulk of their business in December), but said release date would have put it in direct competition with Jumanji: The Next Level, which would have been bad news more to the international box office than the domestic one.
Let’s run the numbers: prior to 2012, no Star Wars movie ever made it to a billion dollars. The first to do that was The Phantom Menace, which slid past that mark with a 3-D re-release, which was set to be the first of six 3D saga film releases at the time. Disney’s acquisition of Lucasfilm put a halt on that plan, and the next major release would be The Force Awakens, which managed to secure a $2 billion gross, which will likely be a peak for the franchise that may never be topped without a rise in interest in markets that didn’t grow up with Star Wars. Solo remains the odd name out with a sub-$400 million gross, but both Rogue One and The Last Jedi had no problem reaching the $1 billion goal, and now, neither has The Rise of Skywalker. Five out of the eleven live-action Star Wars films are billion-dollar grossers, and for a franchise that’s over forty years old, that is certainly nothing to sneeze at.
This was certainly a packed year for Disney at the box office, which was by design. CEO Bob Iger was originally set to leave the company this year prior to the acquisition of 21st Century Fox (which extended his contract through 2021), and the launch of the Disney+ streaming service. Both of these things have proven to be immensely successful and would work as a mic drop for Iger’s 14-year tenure at the company, which has seen a series of successful acquisitions and has more quintupled the company’s stock value since he first signed on. But still, it’s not likely that Disney will have a year as solid as 2019 anytime soon, which saw billion-dollar hits from all of the company’s major brands, including the likes of Captain Marvel, Aladdin, Toy Story 4, The Lion King, and Frozen II, along with the all-time highest-grossing movie ever, Avengers: Endgame, which became the first movie to clear $2.8 billion after China updated their box office numbers recently.
Thanks to those movies and The Rise of Skywalker, Disney’s 10 releases of 2019 had an average gross of $1 billion. Of the slate that Disney released this year, there were only two financial disappointments: Dumbo, which grossed over $353 million worldwide and is estimated to have lost around $60 million theatrically, and Maleficent: Mistress of Evil, which grossed over $491 million and has broken even before accounting for post-theatrical revenues (so the film will profit, but not by a whole lot relative to a pricey $185 million investment). The two other movies to clear $1 billion globally were from Sony Pictures (with Spider-Man: Far From Home, a film that Disney subsidiary Marvel Studios produced) and Warner Bros. (which saw an incredibly unlikely success story with Joker, which managed to reach $1 billion with an R-rating – the first time that any movie has done so – and without a release in China), leading to the first year that ever saw more than five movies join the billion-dollar club.
For the sake of completion, I’ll list the other three movies that reached $2 billion: Titanic, Avatar, and Avengers: Infinity War. The other thirty $1 billion movies that have not been mentioned include Jurassic World, The Avengers, Furious 7, Avengers: Age of Ultron, Black Panther, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows – Part 2, Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom, Frozen, Beauty and the Beast, Incredibles 2, The Fate of the Furious, Iron Man 3, Minions, Captain America: Civil War, Aquaman, Transformers: Dark of the Moon, The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King, Skyfall, Transformers: Age of Extinction, The Dark Knight Rises, Toy Story 3, Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest, Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides, Despicable Me 3, Jurassic Park, Finding Dory, Alice in Wonderland, Zootopia, The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey, and The Dark Knight. Phew!
While The Rise of Skywalker‘s box office is skewing toward the lower end of expectations (a phenomenon that also hit Disney’s Toy Story 4 and The Lion King to a lesser extent), the $275 million movie will see a substantial amount of profit by the time its run at the box office has finished, and there’s still more than a little gas left in the tank with the end of the Skywalker saga. The greater challenge going forward will be to build new Star Wars narratives that don’t necessarily rely upon the established characters and concepts that are near and dear to so many fans. With that in mind, two major Star Wars projects that released at the end of the year – Jedi: Fallen Order and The Mandalorian – were both successful, so the future of the franchise appears to be bright.
Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker is playing in theaters.