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‘Rogue One’ pads Disney’s year as movie sales near record

"Rogue One: A Star Wars Story" has already notched up the highest first day pre-sales ever in the United States following last year's record-breaking "The Force Awakens" (AFP Photo/Frazer Harrison)

“Rogue One: A Star Wars Story” has already notched up the highest first day pre-sales ever in the United States following last year’s record-breaking “The Force Awakens” (AFP Photo/Frazer Harrison)

“Rogue One: A Star Wars Story” kept its grip on North American movie fans over the Christmas weekend, giving the Walt Disney Co. film a second straight win at the box office.

“Rogue One” collected $96.1 million in U.S. and Canadian theaters, researcher ComScore Inc. said Monday in an e-mailed statement. That beat four new releases, including the animated feature “Sing” from Universal Pictures, which opened in second place. “Passengers,” a Sony Corp. sci-fi with Jennifer Lawrence and Chris Pratt landed in third place, while ‘Why Him?”, a Fox comedy, placed fourth. “Assassin’s Creed” from 20th Century Fox made its debut in fifth place.

At this rate, total North American box office sales for the year are projected to be a record $11.3 billion, according to ComScore, topping 2015’s $11.14 billion.

The new “Star Wars” is the latest driver for Disney’s record box-office run, a streak fueled by animated and live-action films. The studio’s hits this year include “Finding Dory” from Pixar, Marvel’s “Captain America: Civil War” and “The Jungle Book.” Disney has topped $7 billion in global ticket sales this year, an industry first.

“Rogue One” is the second of at least six films that Disney has on tap to extend the “Star Wars” series created by George Lucas. The latest picture is a prequel — about the events that led up to the original 1977 movie.

The film had been expected to add $70 million in Friday-to-Sunday sales domestically, according to Box Office Mojo. BoxOfficePro.com was predicting $96 million through the four-day weekend, which includes Friday through Monday.

‘Sing’ Second

“Sing,” from Comcast Corp.’s Universal and Illumination Entertainment, brought in $56.1 million in weekend sales. The animated film features the voice of Matthew McConaughey as a koala trying to restore his theater to its former glory with a singing competition. Reese Witherspoon, Seth MacFarlane and Scarlett Johansson co-star.

The movie garnered 72 percent positive reviews at the website RottenTomatoes.com. “Sing” cost about $75 million to produce, not including marketing costs, according to Box Office Mojo. BoxOfficePro was projecting a four-day total of $43.1 million in domestic sales.

“Passengers,” from Sony Pictures Entertainment, opened with estimated weekend revenue of $23.1 million. BoxOfficePro estimated ticket sales of $29.8 million through Monday.

Lawrence and Pratt are on a space ship transporting thousands of people to a distant colony. Because of a malfunction, they’re awakened from suspended animation 90 years early. RottenTomatoes gave the picture 32 percent positive reviews, while Box Office Mojo put the production cost at $110 million.

‘Assassin’s’ Falls Short

Assassin’s Creed, based on a video game, features Michael Fassbender and Marion Cotillard in a story about a secret society of killers. It brought in $15 million through the four-day weekend. Just 19 percent of critics liked the picture from 21st Century Fox Inc.’s film division, according to RottenTomatoes. Box Office Mojo, which put the production budget at $125 million, was forecasting $14 million in sales through Sunday. BoxOfficePro analysts had projected $18.5 million through Monday.

“Why Him?” opened with $16.7 million, compared with estimates of $11.9 million to $14.2 million for Friday-to-Sunday from Box Office Mojo. The R-rated comedy features James Franco as a Silicon Valley billionaire about to ask for his girlfriend’s hand in marriage. Bryan Cranston is the worried father.

The film got 41 percent positive reviews from RottenTomatoes.

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