When Walt Disney Co. (NYSE: DIS) pays more than $52 billion to buy some major assets from Fox, where does the money come from? Movie franchises like Star Wars play a big role, and this weekend’s release of the latest installment, “Star Wars: The Last Jedi,” is expected to contribute significantly.
The film is expected to be the highest grossing domestic release of the year, hauling in more than $200 million on its opening weekend. If it can manage that, it will be only the fourth film ever to reach that level.
Of the other three, two came from Disney’s Buena Vista studios: “Star Wars: The Force Awakens” at number one with almost $248 million on its 2015 opening and “Marvel’s The Avengers” at number three with just over $207 million in 2012. Number two is Universal’s “Jurassic World,” which raked in nearly $209 million on its debut in 2015.
Giving the film a boost is the fact that it is opening on 4,232 screens, including nearly 410 IMAX screens, more than 640 Premium Large Format, over 3,600 3D locations and 212 D-Box locations. Of the top grossing films, both “Avengers” and “Jurassic World” opened on more screens while “The Force Awakens” opened on 100 fewer. That movie’s appeal came from a 10-year absence of new releases in the Star Wars franchise.
Movie information website Box Office Mojo says a first-weekend estimate of $220 million “seems reasonable, if not conservative.” It notes that online ticket seller Fandango.com reports that only “The Force Awakens” has had higher pre-sales than “The Last Jedi.”
As for competition over the week, only Twenty-First Century Fox Inc. (NASDAQ: FOXA) is launching a wide-release (3,621 screens) for its animated “Ferdinand.” Box Office Mojo estimates opening weekend ticket sales of $14 million to $19 million with an outside chance at $20 million. Fox’s movie studio is part of what Disney is buying for its $52 billion and you can bet collisions like this won’t happen again.