The boom has begun. Rogue One: A Star Wars took off in theaters for Thursday night preview screenings, taking $29 million in box office, according to studio estimates.
The tally places Rogue One as the biggest preview of the year, ahead of Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice ($27.7 million) and Captain America: Civil War ($25 million).
The standalone story in the Star Wars saga, with predominately new characters, opened behind preview screenings for last year's Star Wars: The Force Awakens, which took $57 million in Dec. 2015 on its way to an all-time record opening weekend.
But the strong Rogue One opening shows the Gareth Edwards-directed film is on its way to its own huge weekend as it officially opens Friday in 4,100 theaters.
"Rogue One is off to a rollicking start with $29 million already banked and the weekend hasn't even started yet," says Paul Dergarabedian, senior media analyst for comScore. "Any doubts as to this film's performance and appeal to audiences can be put to rest. We just have to hang on for an amazing first weekend ride."
Rogue One is seventh on the list of all-time preview openings, with The Force Awakens at the top, according to comScore, This list includes 2011's Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows': Part 2 ($43.5 million) 2012's The Dark Knight Rises ($30.6 million) 2012's Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn — Part 2 ($30.4 million), 2011's Twilight Saga: BreakingDawn — Part I ($30.3 million) and 2010's The Twilight Saga: Eclipse ($30 million).
Walt Disney studios estimates Rogue One could open at $150 million for the entire weekend, which many analysts view as a conservative estimate.
The film has been a hit with critics, receiving a "Certified Fresh" 85% positive review rating on the movie site RottenTomatoes.com.
Rogue One has opened in 47 international territories thus far and with an additional $33 million, posting the highest 2016 opening day in Australia, Germany, Austria, Belgium, Scandinavia and Switzerland.