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Star Wars begins 2020 as box-office champ

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Above: Star Wars: Rise of Skywalker will mark a record seventh US$1 billion 2019 release for Disney.

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Frozen 2 is the highest grossing film ever directed by a woman in worldwide ticket sales.

New York

THE North American box office in 2020 started off where it left off last year, with Star Wars: Rise of Skywalker still on top.

After a historic year, the Walt Disney Co opened the new year approaching one milestone and surpassing another.

With US$33.7 million over its third weekend in US and Canada theatres according to studio estimates on Sunday, Rise of Skywalker (US$918.8 million) is closing in on US$1 billion worldwide.

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While it appears unlikely to match the hauls of the trilogy's previous entries, Rise of Skywalker will mark a record seventh US$1 billion 2019 release for Disney.

One of those other six blockbusters, Frozen 2 on Sunday reached US$1.33 billion, making it the highest grossing film ever directed by a woman in worldwide ticket sales.

Jennifer Lee, who co-directed both Frozen films with Chris Buck and who now runs Disney Animation, surpasses her own record from the first Frozen (US$1.28 billion).

Frozen 2 also charts as the highest grossing animated film, so long as you don't count last year's Lion King (US$1.66 billion). Disney considers that remake live-action even though it was largely computer generated.

Holiday holdovers stayed strong, led by a pair of Sony Pictures releases.

Jumanji: The Next Level added US$26.5 million in its fourth week, bringing its domestic total to US$236 million and its global gross past US$600 million.

Greta Gerwig's Little Women, meanwhile, is becoming an outright hit. The Louisa May Alcott adaptation has been the top adult-oriented choice through the busy holiday season.

With US$13.6 million in its second weekend and strong business overseas, Little Women has grossed US$80 million worldwide in two weeks. It was made with a modest US$40 million budget.

The week's only new release also came from Sony. The Grudge, a horror reboot of the 2004 remake produced by Sam Raimi, opened with US$11.3 million.

That was a fair total for a movie that cost US$10 million to make and received some withering reaction from critics and audiences. The Grudge scored just 18 per cent on Rotten Tomatoes and engendered a rarely seen "F" CinemaScore from moviegoers.

Rian Johnson's Knives Out held better than any other film in the top 10, dropping just 9 per cent and grossing US$9 million in its sixth weekend. Its global tally now stands at US$247.5 million.

Sam Mendes' war film 1917 is poised for its national expansion next week after a second weekend of packed theatres in limited release. It took in US$590,000 at 11 theatres, good for an impressive per-theatre average of US$53,100.

Although it was overlooked by the Globes this year, the Safdie brothers' Uncut Gems, starring Adam Sandler, is becoming one of A24's biggest box-office successes. It grossed US$7.8 million in its fourth and widest weekend of release, bringing its domestic overall total to US$36.8 million.

After a box-office year that was down 4 per cent from 2018, Hollywood began 2020 on the upswing. Ticket sales were up 7.2 per cent from the same weekend last year, according to data firm Comscore. AP