NEW YORK • Rogue One: A Star Wars Story posted the second-biggest December opening weekend ever, validating Walt Disney Co's strategy of spinning new stories and characters off the sci-fi classic.
The first in a series of Star Wars spin-off films planned by Disney Studios, it collected an estimated US$155 million (S$224 million) in North American theatres, according to comScore, which compiles box-office data.
That total, on the high end of projections, also represents the second-biggest launch of the year, topped only by the US$179.2 million opening for Disney/Marvel's Captain America: Civil War.
Last year's Star Wars: The Force Awakens holds the record for the largest December opening weekend, with US$248 million.
In release in about 70 per cent of the overseas market, Rogue One sold US$135.5 million more in tickets, according to Disney.
The film cost roughly US$350 million to make and market worldwide. "We saw no real impact from the weather," Mr Greg Foster, chief executive of Imax Entertainment, said by telephone on Sunday, about winter storms that blanketed the upper half of the United States and much of Canada at the weekend.
"It boils down to the movie. (Star) Felicity (Jones) plays an awesome character and the movie feels very authentic to the Star Wars universe."
More than 700 Imax theatres played Rogue One worldwide, delivering the strongest opening results of the year for that supersize-screen chain.
The movie scored highly with many critics, with 85 per cent giving positive reviews, according to aggregator Rottentomatoes.com. It is "a tense, well-made spacefaring war movie about a desperate and demoralised band of insurgents standing up against a rising authoritarian regime", according to NPR critic Chris Kilmek.
The weekend's only other new wide release is Warner Bros' Collateral Beauty, featuring Will Smith and Helen Mirren in a critically panned tale about a New York advertising executive trying to recover from the death of his daughter. It generated US$7 million in sales - a career low for Smith.
Disney has scheduled Star Wars: Episode VIII for December next year and another standalone movie, about a young Han Solo, for May 2018. Episode IX and another standalone film are expected.
NYTIMES, WASHINGTON POST