At the time, it was viewed as financial suicide. Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle was blowing the dust off of a beloved property, with an exciting new cast that included The Rock, Kevin Hart, Karen Gillan and Jack Black. But it was going to open against Rian Johnson’s Star Wars: The Last Jedi. And that movie was expected to suck up all of the oxygen in the multiplexes.
And it did. The Last Jedi opened to a massive number, and then it tailed off. Jumanji, however, opened strong and then kept its legs. Positive reviews and strong word of mouth kept audiences flocking to the theaters for the reboot, meaning that both movies enjoyed box office success at a time when theaters needed a boost.
Well guess what? It’s happening all over again. Jumanji: The Next Level is opening in theaters in December, and it’s getting a week-long head start, but it also is going to find itself going up against a Star Wars movie – this time, it’s J.J. Abrams’ saga-concluding chapter, Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker. During a recent press day in Cabo San Lucas, we sat down with Jumanji producers Matt Tolmach and Hiram Garcia, and got their opinion about having to face off with Star Wars once again as their sequel prepares to open.
Hiram Garcia: We were very aware [at the time] of, like, as giant Star Wars fans, the amount of times we were like, ‘Bro, we're going against Star Wars? Is everyone sure?’ And especially with that movie, there was so much buzz around [The Last Jedi] and what was going to happen. We had a ton of moments where like, ‘Are we really sure that we want to come out against Star Wars?’
Matt Tolmach: There’s never a good window. And you have to believe in the movie. And what we all got very clear about is, it’s the right time for this movie. When you're having a conversation about release dates, obviously you have to be aware of what else is on your date or close to your date. But to the extent that a movie can actually capture the spirit of a time of year, that this is a holiday movie, that it's a movie about people coming together and being there for each other, which is sort of in the holiday tradition, it just felt like it was good timing. And you know, we had a few fairly major movie stars in our arsenal also. We were showing up with the goods, but still it was, it was super, super daunting.
And based on how the two movies were received back in 2017, it taught the producers an important business lesson about the power of movies to draw massive crowds during the holiday season.
Hiram Garcia: The one thing that we felt confident about is that Star Wars still is a tone in itself. And the thing that we had that we felt really good about was that we felt we were an eight-to-80 movie that like, on a holiday, when the family's together and everyone's deciding, ‘All right, we've all seen Star Wars. What do we see next?’ We’re the movie that we know from the little kids to grandma, there's going to be jokes in there, there's going to be fun in there and you're going to leave having a big fun, good time with our movie. And that was the thing that we always felt confident with. So, we're, never trying to dethrone Star Wars. We just want to coexist with it.
And they will. Will anticipation for Star Wars is through the roof, with Rise of Skywalker eyeing a $200 million opening weekend, just as many people want to catch up with The Rock and Kevin Hart to see where they are going in the Jumanji sequel. In fact, when I sat down with the cast and asked them about the “rematch” between the two franchises, Rock refused to bite, and took the high road by saying there’s enough room at the table for both franchises. Watch the full interview with the Jumanji: The Next Level cast right here.
Now it’s up to the box office Gods. OK, really, it’s up to you guys. Jumanji: The Next Level gets a head start by opening on December 15, and then Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker will pack theaters on December 20. Do you plan on checking out both?