‘The Rise of Skywalker’ has fifth-highest Thursday preview

Chewbacca, Poe Dameron, Finn and Rey pilot the Millenium Falcon in “Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker.”

Disney | Lucasfilm

Despite harsh critical reception, “Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker” had a stellar Thursday night.

The film, the ninth and final installment in the Skywalker saga, hauled in $40 million in preview showings, becoming the fifth-highest-grossing Thursday night preview in U.S. cinematic history.

“Avengers: Endgame” is the current record holder with $60 million, followed by “The Force Awakens” ($57 million), “The Last Jedi” ($47 million) and “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2” ($44 million).

The film holds a 58% score on Rotten Tomatoes, from just under 300 reviews, but fans have been a bit more forgiving in their reviews of the film. Currently, the movie holds an 86% audience score from more than 8,000 ratings.

Presales for “The Rise of Skywalker” began on Oct. 28, and it is likely that the vast majority of the Thursday night tickets had been sold before critic reviews were released.

For many critics, “The Rise of Skywalker” spent too much time fixing issues fans had with “The Last Jedi” and adding characters instead of exploring the ones that were introduced previously.

“Despite the naysayers, the box office Force is indeed strong with this Skywalker, as this final chapter in the latest trilogy gets off to a great start with massive Thursday night previews,” said Paul Dergarabedian, senior media analyst at Comscore.

Expectations for the box office sales during the full opening weekend have been all over the map, with some projecting around $170 million, lower than the other films in this trilogy, to somewhere north of $220 million, about on par with what “The Last Jedi” garnered in 2017.

The $40 million Thursday night bodes well for the blockbuster. The strong turnout combined with more positive reviews from audiences could give “The Rise of Skywalker” an extra boost during its opening weekend.

Disclosure: Comcast, the parent company of CNBC, owns Rotten Tomatoes.

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