‘Star Wars’ and ‘Jumanji’ in Tight Box Office Race for Final Weekend of 2017

“Jumanji” came within $1.2 million of “Star Wars” on Friday

Star Wars jumanji

In its third Friday in theaters, “The Last Jedi” added $19 million to bring its total to $483 million domestically. At this pace and with industry estimates expecting a third weekend total of $54 million from 4,232 screens, it will pass the $504 million made by “Beauty and the Beast” to become 2017’s highest grossing domestic release with $537 million by New Year’s Eve.

Five years after Disney bought Lucasfilm for $4 billion, box office grosses for “The Force Awakens” ($2.06 billion), “Rogue One” ($1.05 billion) and “The Last Jedi” have matched that amount, not to mention the billions more in merchandising, TV deals, and other ancillary revenue that have come from this new era in the 40-year-old franchise. To this point, “The Last Jedi” is 23 percent ahead of the pace set by “Rogue One” after two weeks in theaters, and 30 percent behind that of “The Force Awakens.”

Neither box office analysts nor Disney expected “Last Jedi” to match the gross for “The Force Awakens,” which had the advantage of being the first “Star Wars” movie in a decade to be released. The drop-off for “Star Wars” sequels was also the case for “The Empire Strikes Back,” which made $98 million less than the first “Star Wars” did during its initial run in 1980. Analysts who spoke to TheWrap said a reasonable goal for “The Last Jedi” would be $1.4 billion, a worldwide total 30 percent less than “Force Awakens”  that would put it in the top 10 highest grossing films of all-time and on the same level as “Avengers: Age of Ultron.”

But while “The Last Jedi” is still on course to hit that target, it is finding some unexpected competition in the form of Columbia Pictures’ “Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle,” which has performed very well in a crowded Christmas market. With strong word of mouth from both critics and audiences, the film is aimed at the sort of family audiences that “Star Wars” hopes to keep coming into the theaters as kids are out of school on winter break. In fact, estimates put “Jumanji” just behind “Star Wars” with $50 million for the weekend from 3,765 screens, with Friday’s totals sitting just behind that of “Star Wars” with $17.8 million. That should bring its domestic total to $187 million by Sunday’s end.

But no matter who wins the weekend, the box office is going out with a bang, as industry estimates project that the final domestic revenue total for the year will be at $11.1 billion, about 2.5 percent short of the record $11.3 billion made last year. Considering that 2017’s totals were down by as much as six percent following the worst summer season in 11 years, that’s a testament to how well audiences have responded to the quality films that have come out in the final third of the year, starting with “It” in September and continuing with films like “Thor: Ragnarok” and the current set of holiday offerings.

In fact, it’s not just “Last Jedi” and “Jumanji” doing well. Universal’s “Pitch Perfect 3” is holding on well in third place with $6.6 million made on its second Friday with a projected $18.3 million weekend and $70 million 10-day total against a $45 million budget. Meanwhile, Fox/Chernin Entertainment’s “The Greatest Showman,” which got off to a slow start last weekend, has gained some steam and is projected to make $14.7 million this weekend. That’s up 67 percent from the $8.8 million 3-day total it made last weekend. It is projected to finish the year with $54 million made over 12 days.

On the other hand, Paramount’s “Downsizing” and Warner Bros./Alcon’s “Father Figures” haven’t fared so well, with “Father Figures” falling out of the top 10 with $1.2 million on Friday from 2,902 locations for a projected $4.5 weekend and a cume of less than $14 million. “Downsizing,” meanwhile, is looking at a ninth place finish with $6.5 million made this weekend and a $19 million total.