The latest Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker opening weekend box office projections are actually lower than the initial estimates. Disney's revival of the Star Wars movie franchise has largely been an overwhelming success. The trio of The Force Awakens, Rogue One, and The Last Jedi all earned over $1 billion worldwide and finished their runs as the highest-grossing movie of the year, domestically. Of course, last year's spinoff Solo was the exception here, totaling just $392.9 million globally as it became the first Star Wars installment to lose money.

The Rise of Skywalker is widely expected to be a return to form for the franchise, commercially speaking. With Lucasfilm returning to the friendly confines of December and the film ending the classic Skywalker saga, Star Wars 9 is poised to be one of the biggest hits of the year. But there's been some question regarding how big its box office haul will be. In late October, shortly after the release of the final trailer, early opening weekend estimates suggested The Rise of Skywalker could have a lower debut than The Last Jedi. And that, strangely, is still the case.

According to The Wrap, the current range for The Rise of Skywalker's opening weekend is between $175-210 million. That's lower than the projections from a month ago, which predicted $185-225 million domestically. For comparison, The Force Awakens opened with $247.9 million, while The Last Jedi earned $220 million in its first three days.

Obviously, projections trending downward isn't a great sign, but there are a few factors to keep in mind. Predicting the box office is not an exact science, and there have already been a number of 2019 tentpoles that exceeded expectations. For example, Joker recently became the first R-rated film to hit the $1 billion mark. It wouldn't be out of the question for Star Wars 9, arguably this holiday season's most anticipated release, to surpass the estimates and have a larger haul than anticipated. It's also worth keeping in mind The Rise of Skywalker is still a few weeks away from release, meaning there's no word-of-mouth circulating. Should the first reactions following the world premiere be enthusiastically positive, it'll increase demand to see the movie on opening weekend. There isn't reason to be overly concerned yet.

At the same token, The Rise of Skywalker doesn't have the marketplace to itself over Christmas. Jumanji: The Next Level opens a week prior, and Welcome to the Jungle more than held its own against The Last Jedi back in 2017. There's also musical Cats, which admittedly is targeting a different demographic, but could still emerge as a solid counter-programming option. All that's to say, there's going to be a healthy competition for box office dollars over the holidays; The Rise of Skywalker will almost definitely take the top spot, but the myriad of other options might impact its total. It'll be interesting to keep tabs on how the box office shakes out this December.

Star Wars 9 / Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker (2019) release date: Dec 20, 2019