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Lando flying the Millennium Falcon

The last big movie of the year, and arguably the last true global movie event until 2021, arrived in theaters last night in the form of Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker. Sans Solo: A Star Wars Story, all Star Wars movies are huge, and J.J. Abrams’ final chapter in the Skywalker Saga was always going to make money. Now we’re getting our first idea of how much money because the numbers from Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker's opening night have come in.

According to Deadline, Disney is reporting that Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker made $40 million in domestic preview screenings Thursday night. This is slightly down from the initial report last night that placed Episode IX with a $44-$48 million start, but it's still good enough to put J.J. Abrams’ film in elite company.

If that $40 million opening night figure holds once all the money is counted, that gives Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker the fifth-highest Thursday night preview box office of all time, slotting in behind Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2, which made $43.5 million in previews. Also ahead of The Rise of Skywalker are Star Wars: The Last Jedi with $45 million, Star Wars: The Force Awakens with $57 million and, of course, Avengers: Endgame with $60 million.

A $40 million opening night is down from the previous two films, but it’s still a heck of a start and puts Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker ahead of both Avengers: Infinity War and Rogue One: A Star Wars Story, which had preview box offices of $39 million and $29 million, respectively.

With its $40 million opening night domestically and $59 million internationally so far, Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker sits at $99 million worldwide and is likely crossing the $100 million threshold as we speak, and the weekend is just getting started. The film has been forecasted to hit $450 million worldwide opening weekend.

Tracking has had Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker pegged to hit $170 million domestically over the three-day opening weekend, but that may be a bit conservative with those in the industry seeing the film going north of $200 million opening weekend. Should that happen, The Rise of Skywalker would be only the eighth film to do so.

So financially, Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker is looking like a success. But so was Star Wars: The Last Jedi, and like that film, The Rise of Skywalker is already proving divisive. A film in this franchise, especially the final film of the Skywalker Saga, is likely review-proof to a degree, but it is worth noting that the critical response to J.J. Abrams’ film has been tepid at best.

The fan response seems to be a lot better, with opening night exit polling (which admittedly reflects the opinions of those predisposed to enjoy a film) shows that audiences are enjoying The Rise of Skywalker. The concluding chapter of the Skywalker Saga will also boast the widest theater count ever in December, with 4,406 locations.

While the discussions on Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker, the Sequel Trilogy and the Skywalker Saga as a whole will continue for the weeks, months and years ahead, early signs look good that Episode IX will return the franchise to financial glory after Solo’s misstep.

Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker is now playing. Make sure you know what ticket to buy and come back after you’ve seen it to read our breakdown of the ending. Check out our 2020 Release Schedule to see what movies are coming next year, and stay tuned to CinemaBlend for all your movie news.

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