It seemed so counterintuitive at the time. A generic action movie riding a nostalgic brand name releasing less than a week after the latest entry in the biggest, and most nostalgic, franchise in the world. Surely Jumani: Welcome to the Jungle would get lost in the wake of Star Wars: The Last Jedi. But this inspired counter-programming succeeded in a way no one could have predicted as Jumanji outlasted The Last Jedi at the box office en route to an incredible $956.6 million worldwide. Now it seems that Sony is planning for Round 2 of Star Wars v. Jumanji. Tom Rothman, Sony Pictures' motion picture group chairman, recently had this to say about the Jumanji sequel:
I'd bet on seeing Dwayne Johnson in theaters again in December 2019. Don't rush to give all those screens to Star Wars. Come on, fair's fair.
Speaking at CinemaCon in Las Vegas, attended by CinemaBlend's own Sean O'Connell, Tom Rothman certainly sounded confident about returning to the strategy that worked out so well the first time, and who can blame him. The sequel that few asked for and that faced off with a Star Wars movie went on to become the studio's best domestic performer of all time. We had heard that Jumanji 3 might be looking to square off with Star Wars: Episode IX, and this certainly seems to affirm that. He's having fun with it, but Tom Rothman is right to tell theater owners not to give all the screens to Star Wars in December of next year. Star Wars is always going to be front-loaded and will make more money overall, but Jumanji outperformed expectations by a country mile, bringing theaters business and maintaining a top 5 spot at the box office until late February.
Whether or not the next Jumanji film can repeat its predecessor's box office success remains to be seen. There are a lot of variables that cannot be accounted for yet, but Sony is wise to try and recreate the same conditions for success. We are still not sure why Jumanji hit in the way that it did, but the fact that Dwayne Johnson is returning is a huge deal. The Rock is a bona fide movie star and one of the few actors who can get audiences to show up just by being in a film. The premise of the film also gives the returning cast another fun opportunity to play against type. The December release date is also advantageous regardless of the presence of Star Wars. Jumanji was a fun, family-friendly affair that scored well with critics and gave audiences an alternative option that everyone could see over the holidays.
While Jumanji succeeded on its own merits by virtue of being entertaining, it is also hard to ignore the elephant in the room that The Last Jedi probably didn't have the repeat business it might have had it not been so divisive among the fanbase. It is therefore difficult to predict how that fanbase will react to Episode IX and whether or not the trilogy-capper proves just as divisive. Either way, Jumanji has now proven itself and established a franchise that audiences will look forward to seeing no matter its release date. Of course, there is also the question of how well Jumanji 3 might do if slotted in a release date with no real competition.