"Star Wars: The Last Jedi" soared to $220 million on its North American opening weekend, data released Sunday showed, backing up months of hype and earning critical praise even as early audiences didn't quite feel the Force.
The latest instalment of the epic space opera was bettered only by 2015's "Star Wars: The Force Awakens," the first movie in the saga's sequel trilogy which took $248 million on its debut weekend and a total gross of $937 million.
But despite a "certified fresh" rating of 93 percent on Rotten Tomatoes and lofty comparisons to "The Empire Strikes Back," widely seen as the best film in the franchise, 95,000 movie-goers were less enthused, bestowing it a 56 percent average that was colder than the ice planet Hoth.
The numbers could still converge, but the discrepancy so far is unusual.
By comparison, "The Force Awakens" received a 93 percent critic score and 88 percent audience rating, while 2016 spin-off "Rogue One: A Star Wars Story" got 85 and 87 percent respectively.
"The Last Jedi" sees the return of the characters introduced in J.J. Abrams's first entry in the rebooted trilogy, and is also the last outing for character Leia Organa, played by Carrie Fisher, who died last December.
Box office figures are a poor measure of a film's popularity compared to older releases because they do not take inflation into account.
"The Last Jedi" was followed in second place by "Ferdinand," a computer-animated comedy about a bull with a big heart often mistaken for a dangerous beast, which took $13 million on what was also its debut weekend.
Last weekend's number one "Coco," a colorful Pixar movie set in Mexico, was beat out to third place with $10 million.
It has now earned $150.8 million in North America since its release four weeks ago, on the Wednesday before Thanksgiving.
Feel-good film "Wonder" starring Julia Roberts, Owen Wilson and Jacob Tremblay slid to fourth, taking $5.4 million.
The movie tells the story of a determined fifth-grade boy with a facial deformity who must deal with rudeness and bullying by schoolmates.
Warner Bros. superhero film "Justice League," featuring Gal Gadot as Wonder Woman, Ben Affleck as Batman, Henry Cavill as Superman and Jason Momoa as Aquaman, plus Ciaran Hinds as a supervillain, fell to fifth with $4.2 million.
The figures from Exhibitor Relations are industry projections released prior to the conclusion of the weekend.
Rounding out the top ten were:
"Daddy's Home 2" ($3.8 million)
"Thor: Ragnarok" ($2.9 million)
"The Disaster Artist" ($2.6 million)
"Murder On The Orient Express" ($2.5 million)
"Lady Bird" ($2.1 million)