If anything, TROS, and Disney-era Star Wars in general, is an excellent example of the importance of the calendar, especially for films released in December. I know some people are dismissive of the effects of the calendar, but it's just a simple fact of the matter. Christmas Day, Memorial Day, New Year's Day, MLK Day, President's Day, Valentine's Day, Labor Day, and Columbus Day are all days that give a boost to the box office. Meanwhile, Christmas Eve is a bad day (which is why TLJ had such a big drop in its second weekend). And of those days, Christmas, New Year's, and Valentine's are the only ones with fixed dates. And Christmas & New Year's happen to be most relevant to Disney-era Star Wars. Also worth pointing out is that the box office experiences a big drop after New Year's Day (though, oddly, that is delayed by a day if Jan. 2 falls on a Monday). Every December release will have a rough week after New Year's.
I've pointed out before that The Force Awakens' first week was a relatively low percentage of its lifetime gross compared to most other recent blockbusters, but that its gross past its fourth week was much lower relative to its lifetime gross than those other films; also, among the ten largest films of the 21st century and among all new Star Wars films, it had the second largest percent drop from Week 2 to Week 3. Why? January happened, and it happened at a specific enough time to have that effect. January is a bad month for the box office, and any December film is going to feel it to some extent. Even a movie as famously leggy as Avatar had the biggest week-over-week drop of its first two months in the week of Jan. 1-7. After New Year's, theater attendance drops significantly, people returning to work and school from their holiday vacations serving to pump the brakes on the box office big time.
This is quite relevant to The Rise of Skywalker, because that movie came out on Dec. 20, later in the month of December than any other Disney-era Star Wars film. It had only 12 days to benefit from December, compared to 14 days for The Force Awakens, 16 days for Rogue One, and 17 days for The Last Jedi. Those few days can make a big impact. After its first 12 days, TROS made only 7.7% less than what TLJ did in its first 12 days, which isn't bad (and, to be fair, Christmas Day happening on its sixth day instead of its eleventh did help it a bit, though Christmas being in its first week is also a big reason why its drop in Week 2 was larger than that of TFA, TLJ, and R1). But it got worse after those 12 days. TLJ having 17 days to benefit from December also meant it got three full weekends in December, capping off its 18th day with New Year's Day. Meanwhile, TROS's 18th day was Jan. 6. By then, the post-New Year's drop had already taken the wind out of its sails. This caused TROS to have a third weekend drop of 52.3%, vs. only 26.6% for TLJ (TFA meanwhile had a 39.5% drop its third weekend, which was less bad than it could have been thanks to NYD being that Friday). While it was still lagging TLJ a bit, TROS debuting five days later in December than TLJ did really hurt it in terms of launch-aligned comparisons (indeed, I admit I failed to take into account the calendar myself, causing me to be overly optimistic on my projections for TROS's lifetime gross). But for what it's worth, TROS is so far having a much better January than TLJ did, pulling in 21% more for the Jan. 1-14 period than TLJ did for the same period in 2018. Granted, that could be at least in part to the offset dates, but still. And though it won't be enough to offset the big difference in total December grosses caused by the five-day offset in release dates (TROS made $390.7M last month, while TLJ made $517.2M in Dec. 2017), but it's something.
Could TROS have matched or even beaten TLJ had it debuted a week earlier? Maybe, maybe not. There's no way of knowing for sure. But it almost certainly would have performed better than it has so far if it had benefited from spending 19 days in December instead of 12. Disney really should have released the movie on Dec. 13 instead (and FWIW, maybe Disney should have stuck to the traditional May releases for Star Wars). But what's done is done, and it's hard to fault TROS's box office results on its own merits as a film (or on the reactions of certain audience members still stewing over TLJ) when the gap between it and TLJ appears to be mostly the result of a bad calendar. That's not to say that some people haven't sworn off Star Wars entirely after TLJ, but I think it can be assumed that the impact on TROS from such people is likely greatly overstated.
P.S.: Regarding "disappointments," there is such a thing as unrealistic expectations (there's also such a thing as citing your sources when you speak as if you have knowledge of a company's expectations). When adjusted to the Q1 2019 average ticket price of $9.01, only three films this century have grossed more than $700M domestically, and only 25 (26 within the next 2-3 weeks) have grossed more than $500M. Even over the past 45 years, only 12 films have surpassed $700M adjusted, and of those only seven have exceeded $800M. Just putting things into perspective for anyone who thinks Episodes VIII & IX "ought" to have done $700-800M domestic.
Last edited by Shadow1980 - on 17 January 2020