This photo taken on December 19, 2019 shows a man walking past a poster for the latest Star Wars movie, "The Rise of Skywalker", in Beijing. - The movie opens in theaters in China on December 20.

Source: Paul Bois

The much-coveted Chinese box office, the cash cow so rich that movie studios would rather censor their own products than risk alienating, will be no deus ex machina for “Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker” this weekend.

According to Variety, the latest Disney installment in the mega-franchise is now on course to have its weakest opening weekend in China despite an expected global box office haul of $170 million to $200 million in North America.

“On Friday, in its first official sessions in Chinese theaters, the film was barely crawling,” reported the outlet. “By 8.00 p.m. local time, ‘The Rise of Skywalker’ had earned just $2.2 million (RMB15.4 million), according to multiple data tracking services. It stood in fourth place behind three Chinese titles.”

The number one opening slot in the Chinese box office will go to “Ip Man 4: The Finale” with a strong showing of $10.3 million, followed by the crime thriller “Sheep Without A Shepherd” and the New Zealand romance “Only Cloud Knows.”

“The 5.30pm figure for ‘Rise of Skywalker’ produces a running total of $5.85 million that includes a full day of previews on Wednesday, and midnight screenings on Thursday evening,” continued Variety. “That wimpish performance gives online ticketing agency Maoyan reason to forecast a lifetime box office of just $18 million (RMB125 million) for ‘Rise of Skywalker.’”

Compare those numbers with 2016’s “The Force Awakens,” which pulled $52.3 million on its opening weekend and a box office total of $126 million. From there, the franchise only declined in value, with “Rogue One” pulling in a box office total of $69.4 million and “The Last Jedi” petering out with just $42.6 million. No matter how one slices it, the “Star Wars” franchise has completely lost traction in the Chinese market.

According to Fox News, however, current tracking shows that “The Rise of Skywalker” is already performing below its predecessors in the North American box office.

“‘The Rise of Skywalker’ brought in an estimated $40 million in North America in its Thursday night previews, the fifth-biggest Thursday opening ever,” the outlet reported. The first film, ‘Star Wars: The Force Awakens,’ earned $57 million its Thursday night previews in 2015, at the time the biggest of all time. The second film in the trilogy, ‘Star Wars: The Last Jedi,’ had a $45 million tally on its opening Thursday night in 2017.”

Currently, the film holds a tepid rating of 58% on Rotten Tomatoes with an IMDB score of 6.9. The big question on everyone’s mind is if the negative reviews mean this is just another case of the critics being out of touch with fans since the current RT audience score stands at a solid 86%.

While some critics, such as Scott Mendelson of Forbes, clearly showed some level of political bias by knocking the movie for undoing the more politically-correct parts of “The Last Jedi” in the name of fan service, other critics, such as James Berardinelli of Reviews, just straight up found the movie to be an incoherent mess – the kind of unfortunate event that occurs when a corporation values money over great storytelling.

“Taken together, ‘The Force Awakens,’ ‘The Last Jedi, and ‘The Rise of Skywalker’ are representative of what happens when money – not a creative impulse – becomes paramount in franchise-building. Rather than extend and expand a universe, these movies have diminished it,” wrote Berardinelli.