NEW YORK — Star Wars: The Last Jedi will happily settle for second.
Rian Johnson's second installment in the third Star Wars trilogy rocketed to a debut of $220 million at the North American box office, according to studio estimates Sunday. That gives The Last Jedi the second-best opening ever, slotting in behind only its predecessor, The Force Awakens.
The blockbuster became just the fourth film to open with more than $200 million domestically. Aside from The Force Awakens ($248.8 million), the others are The Avengers ($207.4 million) and Jurassic World ($208.8 million). Accounting for inflation, the debut of 2012's The Avengers would roughly tie with The Last Jedi.
The Last Jedi is off to a similar start overseas, too, with $230 million in international ticket sales, Disney says. That brings its three-day global haul to $450 million.
The weekend's only other new wide release, the animated Ferdinand, about a gentle bull voiced by John Cena, was essentially stampeded by The Last Jedi, grossing $13.3 million and finishing second.
The rest of the top five: Pixar's Day of the Dead movie Coco (No. 3, $10 million); Wonder (No. 4, $5.4 million), starring Julia Roberts and Jacob Tremblay; and DC Films' superhero team-up Justice League (No. 5, $4.2 million).
While Abrams' reboot capitalized on a decade's hiatus for Star Wars, Johnson's sequel didn't have the same benefit of freshness. It follows not only The Force Awakens (which ultimately grossed $2.1 billion) but last year's spinoff Rogue One: A Star Wars Story. That release opened with $155.1 million, and grossed a little more than $1 billion globally.
Johnson, who wrote and directed, instead aimed to distinguish The Last Jedi by introducing some new tones to George Lucas' space opera. The Last Jedi is more irreverent than previous chapters. And it has drawn plaudits for its diverse cast, including Daisy Ridley, John Boyega and newcomer Kelly Marie Tran.
"The results speak to the power of representation," says Disney distribution chief Dave Hollis. "The film really reflects our world and beyond. It becomes something people can see themselves in."
Johnson's approach has seemed to work. Good reviews have helped. Critics gave Johnson's film a 93% fresh rating on Rotten Tomatoes. Audiences endorsed it as well, giving it an A grade on CinemaScore, though not all fans are on board with Johnson's innovations. The Last Jedi has scored a dismal 56% rating from 95,000 Rotten Tomato users.
Yet the haul for The Last Jedi dwarfed most all releases in the two years since The Force Awakens. By comparison, it has in three days already bested the five-week gross of DC Films' Justice League ($219.5 million).
Daisy Ridley's Rey and Adam Driver's Kylo Ren are front and center, alongside co-stars Mark Hamill, John Boyega and the late Carrie Fisher, in the new trailer for 'Star Wars: The Last Jedi.' Lucasfilm
"Seeing a movie like this in the movie theater, getting the collective goose bumps and having the OMG-moments, that's something you cannot replicate at home on the small screen," says Paul Dergarabedian, senior media analyst for comScore. "Rian Johnson has made a movie that showcases the movie theater experience in a truly brilliant way."
Signaling its faith in Johnson's course for Star Wars, Lucasfilm earlier announced that Johnson will develop the next trilogy for the franchise, the first movie of which he'll write and direct. Abrams is set to return to direct Episode IX after he was brought in to replace Colin Trevorrow. A separate spinoff centered on a young Han Solo is out May 25.
The massive debut for The Last Jedi singlehandedly brightens what has been a disappointing year for Hollywood. The weekend was far and away the highest grossing of the year. Dergarabedian estimates the year will end about 2% down with a little more than $11 billion in ticket sales.
Final numbers are expected Monday.