Han Solo and Chewbacca in Solo: A Star Wars Story. (Source: Lucasfilm Ltd/ via Bloomberg)

‘Solo’ Shows Even `Star Wars' No Sure Thing as Sales Disappoint

(Bloomberg) -- "Star Wars" fatigue may be setting in.

“Solo: A Star Wars Story,” Walt Disney Co.’s latest offering from the storied film franchise, opened to disappointing holiday weekend sales, a rare slip for a movie studio that has dominated the box office for almost three years with serial-type adventures.

The film collected $103 million in U.S. and Canadian theaters during the four-day U.S. Memorial Day weekend, industry researcher ComScore Inc. estimated in an email Monday.

The anemic returns mark a setback in Disney’s efforts to exploit the “Star Wars” franchise created by George Lucas. The company revived the brand in 2015 with the first film in a new trilogy and plans for prequels to the saga featuring Luke Skywalker, Han Solo and Princess Leia. “Solo” is off to the worst start of four movies released so far under Disney.

Based on early returns, Disney on Friday slashed its estimates for the film’s debut weekend, predicting North American ticket sales through Monday’s holiday would total $105 million to $115 million. The company previously projected as much as $150 million.

“Solo: A Star Wars Story” faced no new competition, but movie fans who weren’t traveling also had the option to see 21st Century Fox Inc.’s “Deadpool 2,” a Marvel superhero movie now in its second weekend, or the month-old Marvel hit “Avengers: Infinity War” from Disney.

Muted Holiday Weekend

The Memorial Day weekend isn’t typically a huge movie-going time. Only four other films have topped $100 million in their debuts during the holiday stretch, with the record of $153 million set 11 years ago by Disney’s “Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End.”

“Solo” was partly hindered by less upbeat reviews than Disney’s other “Star Wars” movies, with an average 70 percent approval on RottenTomatoes.com -- the lowest score since “Star Wars: Episode II -- Attack of the Clones” in 2002.

The movie opened in almost 4,400 North American locations. Alden Ehrenreich stars as a young Han Solo, the iconic “Star Wars” pilot and smuggler played by Harrison Ford. On a quest to rescue his first love, he teams up with Lando Calrissian, played by Donald Glover and finds the Millennium Falcon spaceship and a band of space outlaws. The film also reveals how Solo meets his furry co-pilot, Chewbacca.

Dave Hollis, president of global theatrical distribution for Disney, said that results were tempered by a very busy month at the box office leading up to Memorial Day.

“It leaves us hopeful with what is a very well-received movie,” said Hollis, noting there was almost no competition in the next weeks. “We are going to measure how we feel about the result when we get to the end of the run.” The size of the “Star Wars” ticket sales makes them hard to forecast, he added.

China Outlook

China, set to become the biggest movie market in the world, has been a savior for franchises that have been less well-received in the U.S., but not so for “Star Wars." This installment collected just $10.1 million over the weekend, Disney said.

For China, “we are going to have take a longer look at a plan to really introduce the characters to the market in a way that previously they had not benefited from,” Hollis said. “We know that we have work to do, it’s going to take time. We have a year and half between now and when ‘Episode 9’ comes out and the team will be all over it.”

Fans will have to wait until December 2019 for the final episode of Disney’s “Star Wars” trilogy. The first two films in the series, “The Force Awakens” and “The Last Jedi,” along with the first standalone movie “Rogue One,” have generated $4.46 billion in worldwide ticket sales, according to Box Office Mojo.

To keep the “Star Wars” story going after that, Disney has commissioned another trilogy from Rian Johnson, director of “The Last Jedi.”

In other box office news, Fox’s “Deadpool 2” took in $55 million for the No. 2 spot over the the four-day holiday period, according to ComScore. “Avengers: Infinity War,” “Book Club” and “Life of the Party” rounded out the top five.

©2018 Bloomberg L.P.