Can ‘Star Wars: The Last Jedi’ Top ‘The Force Awakens’ in Box Office Debut?

Episode VIII of the “Star Wars” saga on target for $190 million-plus opening

Star Wars The Last Jedi Trailer Luke Skywalker

After two weeks of no wide releases, the box office is ready for the big one: “Star Wars: The Last Jedi,” Rian Johnson’s sequel to J.J. Abrams “The Force Awakens,” which made a then-record $529 million worldwide in its opening weekend and grossed over $2 billion by the end of its theatrical run.

“The Last Jedi” is expected to provide a similar final jolt to 2017 box office totals, though it’s unlikely to match the $248 million domestic opening “The Force Awakens” made off the hype of being the first new “Star Wars” film in a decade. Independent trackers currently have the film making an opening weekend of at least $190 million, which would put it on the same level as the $191 million made by “Avengers: Age of Ultron” in 2015.

But analysts who spoke with TheWrap say that it’s very likely that “Last Jedi” will become the fourth film to gross a $200 million-plus opening, joining “Force Awakens,” “The Avengers,” and “Jurassic World.” The film has received glowing praise from critics this week, with the Rotten Tomatoes score currently sitting at 94 percent and expected to finish above 90 percent after the flurry of reviews are registered. There’s also the additional draw of the late Carrie Fisher, whose fans will flock to see her last performance as the Alderaan Princess turned Resistance General Leia Organa.

Today, the total domestic box office revenue for 2017 will hit the $10 billion mark, putting it just under 4 percent down from this point last year according to comScore. “Star Wars” will provide a final big jolt to domestic and worldwide totals, with a worldwide opening weekend of $400-425 million expected. On the domestic side, “The Force Awakens” made $652 million by the end of 2015, and analyst estimates say “Last Jedi” will make at least half a billion by New Year’s Eve.

Estimates from comScore based on December performance from 2015 and 2016 have the final total for 2017 sitting somewhere between $10.9 and $11.1 billion, for a year-to-year drop-off of 2-3.5 percent. That would be a smaller drop-off than 2011, when domestic totals fell 3.7 percent, and 2014, when totals fell 5.2 percent.

“Star Wars: The Last Jedi” follows Rey (Daisy Ridley) as she tries to convince Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill) to help the struggling Resistance survive against The First Order, led by Supreme Leader Snoke and Kylo Ren (Andy Serkis and Adam Driver). Meanwhile, Finn and Poe Dameron (John Boyega and Oscar Isaac) hatch a desperate plan with the help of a maintenance worker named Rose (Kelly Marie Tran) to save the remnants of the Resistance as the First Order plan a final assault to wipe them out. Rian Johnson wrote and directed the film.

Also getting a release this weekend is Blue Sky’s “Ferdinand,” which earned two Golden Globe nominations this week for Best Animated Feature and Best Original Song. Based on the classic children’s book “The Story of Ferdinand” by Munro Leaf and Robert Lawson, the film stars John Cena as the titular Spanish Fighting Bull who yearns to live a pacifist life but is forced into bullfighting in order to earn his freedom. As “Star Wars” will be taking up much of the air this weekend, expectations are low for “Ferdinand” with projections in the high teens.

The film is directed by Carlos Saldanha (“Ice Age”) and also stars Kate McKinnon, David Tennant, Bobby Cannavale, Peyton Manning, Gina Rodriguez, Anthony Anderson, and Daveed Diggs. Robert L. Baird, Tim Federle and Brad Copeland wrote the script.