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Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 20 June 2018

'Solo' sputters on takeoff with at box office

Solo: A Star Wars Story opened well below expectations in ticket sales over the three-day weekend in North American theatres

A special BFI screening of Solo: A Star Wars Story Tim P. Whitby / Tim P. Whitby / Getty Images for Disney
A special BFI screening of Solo: A Star Wars Story Tim P. Whitby / Tim P. Whitby / Getty Images for Disney

In the largest disturbance yet in Disney's otherwise lucrative reign over Star Wars, the Han Solo spinoff Solo: A Star Wars Story opened well below expectations with a franchise-low $83.3 million (Dh305.9m) in ticket sales over the three-day weekend in North American theatres.

Disney estimated on Sunday that Solo will gross $101 million over the four-day Memorial Day weekend, a figure below even the opening weekends of the much-derided Star Wars prequels. Last week, forecasts ran as high as $150 million for the four-day haul of Solo.

Overseas ticket sales were even worse. Solo, starring Alden Ehrenreich in the role made iconic by Harrison Ford, grossed $65 million internationally in its opening weekend, including a paltry $10.1 million in China.

"Of course we would have hoped for this to be a bit bigger," said Dave Hollis, Disney's distribution chief. "We're encouraged by the response that people have had to the film. It got a good CinemaScore (A-minus). The exits are very encouraging."

Solo came in with a Millennium Falcon's worth of baggage following the mid-production firing of directors Phil Lord and Christopher Miller, who were replaced by Ron Howard. With the rejiggered production, the budget soared well past $250 million.

But the cause of the spinoff's disappointing performance may have had as much to do with Star Wars fatigue (The Last Jedi exited theatres just last month) and the stiffer competition of a summer holiday weekend. While no major releases dared to open against Solo, Fox's Deadpool 2 moved its release date up a week ahead of Solo.

The gambit may have hurt both releases. After debuting with $125 million last weekend, the R-rated Ryan Reynolds sequel dropped 66 per cent to second place with $42.7 million and an estimated $53.5 million four-day haul.

Solo notched the biggest Memorial Day weekend opening in several years, but it also came on the heels of a pair of a summer-sized blockbusters - Deadpool 2 and Disney's own Avengers Infinity War - making for an unusually crowded May. Infinity War added $16.5 million in its fifth weekend to bring its domestic total to $621.7 million and its global sales to $1.9 billion - both among the highest of all-time.

"It is a business that is built on momentum but also one where people probably are only able to get to theatres a certain number of weeks in a row," said Hollis.

But there were also questions beyond the effect the calendar had on Solo. While reviews were generally positive (71 per cent "fresh" on Rotten Tomatoes), there was little about Solo that made the movie a must-see event.

Fans were skeptical of Ehrenreich and uncertain about the dismissal of Lord and Miller (the popular filmmaking duo behind 21 Jump Street and The Lego Movie). Unlike any Star Wars' release before, Solo was deemed - gasp - skippable.

As it arrived intheatress, Disney might have been wishing it had instead made a Lando Calrissian spinoff with the red-hot Donald Glover, the star of TV's Atlanta. In the days ahead of release, Lucasfilm President Kathleen Kennedy said a Lando movie is a possibility.

While the original Star Wars films helped define the summer moviegoing experience, Disney released their previous three Star Wars films in December. What most hurt Solo was the "fatigue factor" of a May Star Wars film following a December one, said Paul Dergarabedian, senior media analyst for comScore.

"It's the compressed timeframe between the two Star Wars films and the highly competitive nature of this marketplace. It is summer, after all," said Dergarabedian. "The good news is that the next film isn't until December 2019. That's plenty of breathing space. I think part of the allure of the Star Wars brand in the past has been the long wait."

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Read more:

Donald Glover: 'All I ever wanted was to be part of the conversation'

The cast and crew on what a Han Solo origin film means for the Star Wars franchise

Review: Solo: A Star Wars Story is good, but should have been great

There are plenty of great movies coming to UAE cinemas over Ramadan

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