On Tuesday, Disney’s The Lion King officially crossed $1 billion worldwide—another entry in the studio’s record-shattering financial year. With five months left to go in 2019, Disney is staring at a potential $10 billion global gross when all is said and done, a historic number that will largely depend on the performance of Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker. Despite how far off the December blockbuster may be, we thought now is as good of a time as any to start speculating about the feature’s box office prospects.
To get a framework for our loose projections, let’s first look at the two previous Star Wars trilogies. Surprisingly, the original trilogy’s final installment, Return of the Jedi, earned nearly 12 percent less than its direct predecessor, The Empire Strikes Back, in global ticket sales. However, the prequel trilogy saw Episode III take in roughly 30 percent more than Episode II and that is more in line with modern three-film franchise trends. The Dark Knight Rises edged out The Dark Knight at the worldwide box office by 7%. Avengers: Infinity War took in 35% more than The Avengers. Even the mixed-reaction to The Hunger Games: Mockingjay—Part I didn’t stop the film from spiking 8% compared to the first installment.
Disney is selling The Rise of Skywalker as the definitive conclusion to the main episodic Star Wars saga. After that, Lucasfilm will take a three-year hiatus from Star Wars features before moving forward with an unrelated spinoff trilogy from Game of Thrones creators David Benioff and D.B. Weiss. That makes Episode IX an event in its own right.
Rian Johnson’s The Last Jedi proved divisive among fans en route to a healthy $1.3 billion worldwide, good for the ninth highest-grossing film ever at the time. However, the film fell a staggering 69% in its second weekend compared to The Force Awakens‘ 40% dip. Its ultimate $620 million domestic haul wound up $200 million under Wall Street expectations, and Star Wars remains a flat property in China. But with Force Awakens director J.J. Abrams returning for the conclusion, there is optimism that The Rise of Skywalker can post healthy totals.
If it parallels the prequel trilogy’s numbers, which saw a generally well received Revenge of the Sith follow up a disappointing Attack of the Clones, The Rise of Skywalker could be looking at a final total around $1.7 billion. It’s still too far out to make any definitive predictions, but it’s safe to say the film will cross $1 billion worldwide at the very least.