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'Star Wars' set to dominate Christmas box office

The Walt Disney Co. is set to maintain a firm grip on the box office during the five-day Christmas frame, as "Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker" enters its second weekend.

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"Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker"
Source: Disney

The final entry in the franchise's "Skywalker" saga raked in about $177 million in domestic ticket sales for its opening weekend and is expected to pull in between $75 million and $80 million over Christmas frame. That fits within Disney's projections but falls at the lower end of outside forecasts that had called for the film to open to as much as $200 million. In comparison, 2015's "The Force Awakens" opened to $248 million, while 2017's "The Last Jedi" opened to $220 million. Those two films rank as the fourth- and eighth-biggest domestic openings of all time, respectively.

The holiday weekend will also offer plenty of family-friendly counterprogramming as Twentieth Century Fox's animated comedy "Spies in Disguise" and Sony's period drama "Little Women" both hit wide release. The two films could run neck-in-neck for a second-place Christmas box office finish, with largely strong reviews and similar opening projections.

"Spies in Disguise" features the voice of Will Smith as a superspy who teams up with a nerdy tech officer, voiced by Tom Holland, to save the world after accidentally ingesting a potion that turns him into a pigeon. The film was originally scheduled for release Jan. 18 but faced multiple delays in the wake of Disney's acquisition of Fox's film studio.

"Spies in Disguise" is expected to earn $20 million over the five-day Christmas weekend. The film had a 74% "fresh" rating on review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes, as of 11 a.m. ET on Dec. 24. Recent Fox animated comedies have performed well at the box office. 2017's "Ferdinand," for example, opened to $13.4 million and ended its run with net profits of $75.8 million, according to Kagan, a media research group within S&P Global Market Intelligence. Five comparable Fox animated films reviewed by Kagan, including "Ferdinand", saw average openings of $33.7 million leading to average net profits of $211.4 million.

Meanwhile, the critically acclaimed "Little Women" from Sony Corp.'s Columbia Pictures will open in 3,100 U.S. cinemas on Christmas Day and is expected to make $16 million to $20 million over the five-day frame. Directed by Greta Gerwig, the new movie, which marks the eighth film adaptation of Louisa May Alcott's 1868 novel, features an all-star cast including Saoirse Ronan, Emma Watson, Timothée Chalamet, Laura Dern and Meryl Streep.

"Little Women" had received a 95% "fresh" rating on Rotten Tomatoes as of 11 a.m. ET on Dec. 24. The film is already driving awards buzz: Saoirse Ronan received a nomination for best actress in a drama at the upcoming Golden Globe Awards for her portrayal of the film's protagonist, Jo March.

Kagan compares "Little Women" to other female-centric films, including Gerwig's 2017 directorial debut, "Lady Bird," which posted estimated net profits of $13.2 million after opening to $4.3 million. Together, Kagan's list of five comparable films collected an average net profit of $57.7 million.

A24's "Uncut Gems" is also set to move from limited to wide release on Christmas Day. The crime thriller, which first opened in five theaters across New York and Los Angeles in Dec. 13, stars Adam Sandler as a New York jeweler who makes a series of bad decisions. It is expected to open to as much as the mid-teen million range, according to The Wrap. Variety predicts an opening of $9 million.

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