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Rey in Episode VIII and Episode IX

The Skywalker Saga blasts into theaters one final time this weekend with Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker, and as has been the case with all of the Saga films, it is expected to make a boatload of money. However, it might not quite match its predecessor. Here’s why Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker might make less opening weekend than Star Wars: The Last Jedi.

It all comes down to the release date, and the fact that Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker is releasing closer to Christmas and the end of the year than Star Wars: The Last Jedi did. In its weekend forecast, Box Office Pro notes that The Rise of Skywalker has had strong pre-sales figures pretty close to those of The Last Jedi. However, the distribution of those advance ticket sales may be more heavily weighted after opening weekend with Episode IX.

Basically, Star Wars: The Last Jedi, which released on December 15, 2017 and made $220 million opening weekend, had a full ten days and two weekends in theaters before the Christmas holiday. But Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker opens on December 20, less than a week before Christmas. The potential effect of this is that a higher share of those advance tickets sold will be for the days after opening weekend.

The thinking is that a lower portion of the advance tickets for Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker’s opening weekend will come from general audiences. Casual fans and general moviegoers who are not ultra-fearful of spoilers,might wait until during or after the Christmas holiday, when many families are on vacation, to check out the film. This is in contrast to The Last Jedi, where people would have had to wait a fair bit longer to get to the theater during the holidays.

So while comparable to Star Wars: The Last Jedi in terms of pre-sales overall, Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker may be less front-loaded and its opening weekend may reflect that. We won’t know for sure how it all shakes out until all the dollars are counted on Monday, but even if Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker comes in under the $220 million mark set by The Last Jedi (Star Wars: The Force Awakens’ $247.9 million is likely well out of reach), it’s still going to be big.

The closing chapter of the trilogy and the saga has been tracking for a $170 million domestic opening, but there is plenty of reason to think that is a rather conservative estimate.

As we reported earlier, The Rise of Skywalker got started with $40 million in last night's preview showings, putting it on track for Box Office Pro’s optimistic model for the film’s opening weekend performance. Based on that opening night box office, the model predicts a roughly $190 million opening weekend. That assumes that the word of mouth is good on the film.

That, of course, is a tricky matter. Reviews for Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker, which is arguably review-proof, at least to a degree, have not been great. Fan sentiment has been much more positive though. It’s generally the more die-hard fans who are going on opening night, so we’ll have to see what general audiences think and whether a warm reception can propel The Rise of Skywalker to $200 million and beyond.

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