On the biggest movie-going day of the year, how high can Star Wars go?

Hugh Jackman stars in Twentieth Century Fox's "The Greatest Showman." Hugh Jackman in The Greatest Showman
Hugh Jackman stars in Twentieth Century Fox's "The Greatest Showman." Hugh Jackman in The Greatest Showman

As the crowds arrive on what is traditionally the biggest movie-going day of the year, cinema executives will be pondering a series of questions about their holiday prospects.

How much will Hugh Jackman's popularity work for the P. T. Barnum musical The Greatest Showman given how late it has arrived on the scene? Can the star power of The Rock and Jack Black counter patchy reviews for Jumanji: Welcome To The Jungle? Will the world's most reliable movie studio, Pixar, have yet another hit with the Mexican animated comedy Coco?

And - the big one - how high can Star Wars go this time round?

After a slump in ticket sales from July to September - leaving box office 6 per cent down on the corresponding period last year as Christmas loomed - the cinema industry is ready for a Jedi-led recovery.

Despite seven new movies and a Doctor Who Christmas special, Star Wars: The Last Jedi is widely expected to be the biggest hit, not just on Boxing Day, but also the entire holidays.

It has opened impressively - taking $27.8 million on a massive 970 of the country's 2100-odd cinemas in its first week.

If it keeps selling tickets, it will be the third year in a row that a Star Wars movie is the summer's biggest hit.

Only two other movies have taken more than The Last Jedi in their opening week - Star Wars: The Force Awakens ($38.5 million on 941 cinemas two years ago) and Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part II ($29.3 million on 754 cinemas six years ago).

And The Force Awakens powered on to be the country's second-highest grossing movie (taking $93.9 million) - only behind James Cameron's Avatar ($115.6 million).

The Last Jedi is heading towards being a bigger hit than Rogue One: A Star Wars Story, which is number eight on the all-time list ($50.2 million), but will it get anywhere near The Force Awakens?

A rival distributor, Stephen Basil-Jones from Sony Pictures Australia, predicts the latest episode of the sci-fi saga will take $60 million to $65 million, which would make it the country's third highest-grossing movie - overtaking Titanic ($57.6 million).

"It's a juggernaut," Basil-Jones said. "But it can't deliver the bonanza the original one did."

But the general manager of entertainment at Event Cinemas, Luke Mackey, is wary about predicting how big The Last Jedi will be.

"I remember before Avatar came out," he says. "Our best guess was $35 million. Jeez, we were wrong."

Even with a strong final week to the year, annual box office is still expected to be down by 3 to 4 per cent on last year's record $1.259 billion.

The Boxing Day releases

The Greatest Showman

Director: Michael Gracey

Musical about circus entrepreneur P. T. Barnum starring Hugh Jackman, Zac Efron and Michelle Williams.

Coco

Director: Lee Unkrich and Adrian Molina

Pixar animation about a 12-year-old Mexican boy whose quest to play guitar sees him trapped in the land of the dead.

Downsizing

Director: Alexander Payne

Thoughtful drama that has Matt Damon and Kristen Wiig as a couple who are scientifically shrunk so they can move into a tiny community.

Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle

Director: Jake Kasdan

Action comedy with Dwayne Johnson and Jack Black about four teenagers who discover a video-game-console and get sucked into a jungle.

Breathe

Director: Andy Serkis

British drama has Andrew Garfield and Claire Foy as an adventurous couple who get on with life after a polio diagnosis.

Call Me By Your Name

Director: Luca Guadagnino

Romantic coming-of-age drama set in Italy in 1983 starring Armie Hammer and Timothee Chalamet

Just to be Sure

Director: Carine Tardieu

French comedy, starring Francois Damiens and Cecile de France, about lonely man searching for his biological father.

Doctor Who: Twice upon a time

Director: Rachel Talalay

The Twelfth Doctor, played by Peter Capaldi, goes on an adventure that leads to Jodie Whittaker as the Thirteenth Doctor.

The $50 million dollar club

Star Wars: The Last Jedi is expected to be only the ninth movie to take more than $50 million at the Australian box office

1. Avatar $115.6 million

2. Star Wars: The Force Awakens $93.9 million

3. Titanic $57.6 million

4. The Avengers (2012) $53.2 million

5. Jurassic World $52.9 million

6. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2 $52.6 million

7. Shrek 2 $50.3 million

8. Rogue One: A Star Wars Story $50.2 million

This story On the biggest movie-going day of the year, how high can Star Wars go? first appeared on The Northern Daily Leader.