NEW YORK – The new year at the box office is starting where 2016 left off: with Disney on top.
The “Star Wars” spinoff “Rogue One” led the box office for the third consecutive week, taking in an estimated $64.3 million over the four-day New Year’s weekend, according to studio estimates Monday.
The success of Gareth Edwards’ “Rogue One” has only further cemented a record year for the Walt Disney Co., which ran up $2.7 billion in domestic ticket sales in 2016 and accounted for more than 25 percent of the market.
“Rogue One,” which has now grossed about $440 million in North America and nearly $800 million globally, currently slots in as the year’s No. 2 movie, following “Finding Dory” (also from Disney). The studio notched four of the five top films and has, in a year marked by franchise struggles, made a routine of churning out well-reviewed, hugely profitable blockbusters.
The weekend pushed the industry to $11.4 billion in ticket sales in 2016, topping the $11.1 billion record set in 2015. The record revenue, propelled primarily by the Disney juggernaut, masks undeniable challenges in the business. Attendance was largely flat. Streaming and television continue to grow as competitors. Some glaring failures (“Suicide Squad”) and flops (“Independence Day: Resurgence”) showed considerable franchise fatigue with audiences. And several studios (Paramount, Sony) endured much leaner years.
But Hollywood’s 2017 is starting out with brisk business. In its second week of release, the animated “Sing,” from Universal Pictures and Illumination Entertainment, again came in second with $56.4 million.
The poorly reviewed science-fiction romance “Passengers,” starring Jennifer Lawrence and Chris Pratt, came in third with $20.7 million over the four-day weekend. It’s made $61.4 million thus far, a somewhat disappointing total for a film that cost north of $100 million to make. Another Disney title, “Moana,” came in fourth with $14.3 million in its sixth weekend.
A pair of Oscar contenders is also packing theaters. Despite playing in more limited release, Damien Chazelle’s Los Angeles musical “La La Land” grossed $12.3 million over the four-day weekend. The lead Golden Globe nominee has grossed $37 million and yet is playing in only 750 theaters. (Wider releases play in 3,000-plus theaters.) It’s the year’s top limited release title.
Denzel Washington’s acclaimed August Wilson adaption, “Fences,” also took in $12.7 million over the holiday weekend. Since opening wide on Christmas, the Paramount release has made $32.4 million, making it one of the more lucrative stage-to-screen adaptations in recent years.
Debuting in a handful of theaters was Mike Mills’ family drama “20th Century Women,” starring Annette Bening, and Jim Jarmusch’s poetic “Paterson,” with Adam Driver. Each drew strong per-theater averages playing on four screens. They joined a large contingent of films in limited release making awards-qualifying bows before expanding in January. Among them: Martin Scorsese’s Christian epic “Silence,” the grief-filled fantasy “A Monster Calls,” Peter Berg’s Boston Marathon drama “Patriot’s Day,” Ben Affleck’s crime thriller “Live By Night,” and the 1960s NASA tale “Hidden Figures” (which earned $1.1 million over the weekend in 25 theaters).
In the coming weeks, those films will try to kick start the box office of 2017. On tap in the new year are new installments from “Guardians of the Galaxy,” “The Fast and the Furious,” “Alien” and, of course, “Star Wars” – a new (and yet very familiar) fleet of blockbusters that will hope to drive the industry to even higher revenue records.