Batman will battle Superman. Pixar’s heading back below the surface of the sea. Marvel’s launching a Civil War and the X-Men saga will have to deal with an Apocalypse. And yet, when picking the biggest potential movie of 2016, how can we not look ahead to the next chapter of the growing Star Wars cinematic universe and place our chips on Rogue One’s side of the betting table?

Granted, calling Rogue One: A Star Wars Story the biggest potential movie of 2016 isn’t hard. Obviously, Star Wars: The Force Awakens is burning up the box office as we speak, and fans who have experienced an "awakening" likely will be eager to see the next Star Wars movie… even if it is a full year away. But we have data to back up our claim. Fandango polled movie fans as December 2015 drew to a close and learned that Rogue One: A Star Wars Story led the list of most anticipated movies for 2016. Can fan anticipation translate into tickets sold? Bet on it, especially as footage from the eventual sequel will only help to raise awareness and hope (and hype) as the year rolls along. The full list is below:

1. Rogue One: A Star Wars Story (December 16)
2. Finding Dory (June 17)
3. Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice (March 25)
4. Untitled Jason Bourne Movie (July 29)
5. Captain America: Civil War (May 6)
6. Star Trek Beyond (July 22)
7. Independence Day: Resurgence (June 24)
8. X-Men: Apocalypse (May 27)
9. Zoolander No. 2 (February 12)
10. The Jungle Book (April 15)

A few items surprise me on this list. Pixar’s sequel, Finding Dory, ranks higher in fan anticipation than Zack Snyder’s Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice? And the fifth Bourne movie ranks higher than Marvel’s latest? I know that Matt Damon is back in the fold as the once-forgetful super spy, and he’s bringing director Paul Greengrass along with him. But are we inching closer to Marvel burnout? I suppose it is possible.
Outside of that, placing Rogue One at the top of the list is hardly surprising. Audience curiosity has the potential to be as high for Gareth Edwards’ standalone story as it was for Star Wars: The Force Awakens. Where fans, last month, were eager to see what J.J. Abrams was able to do in the Star Wars universe, audience members will be equally interested/concerned with how these spinoff anthology movies will do. Rogue One: A Star Wars Story could have the added benefit of having Darth Vader playing a significant role in the story. But will fans latch on to new Rebel characters (played by Felicity Jones, Diego Luna and Ben Mendelsohn) the way that they latched on to the characters played by John Boyega, Oscar Isaac and Daisy Ridley?

We have a year to find out. Rogue One: A Star Wars Story opens in theaters on December 16.

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