Force is still with 'Star Wars,' with massive N.America opening

British actor Daisy Ridley poses with stormtroopers upon arrival for the European premiere of Disney's "Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker" in London on December 18, 2019 (AFP Photo/Tolga AKMEN)

Los Angeles (AFP) - The force is still strong with "Star Wars" as "The Rise of Skywalker" opened to a massive box office take of $177.4 million in North America, industry watcher Exhibitor Relations said Monday.

The film scored the third-biggest December debut ever, according to Disney, behind only the two earlier chapters in the "Star Wars" sequel trilogy, "The Force Awakens" and "The Last Jedi."

Its opening was the third highest by any film this year, after "Avengers: Endgame" and "The Lion King" -- both also from Disney -- and the 12th biggest of all time.

"Rise of Skywalker," directed by J.J. Abrams and starring Adam Driver, Mark Hamill, Daisy Ridley and Oscar Isaac, blew away the weekend's competition.

Its domestic take was nearly seven times that of the No. 2 movie, Sony's game-inspired "Jumanji: The Next Level," which booked $26.5 million for the Friday-through-Sunday period. The action-comedy stars Jack Black, Dwayne ("The Rock") Johnson and Kevin Hart.

In third was another Disney product, "Frozen II," at $13 million. The animated musical film, now in its fifth weekend in theaters, returns to the magical world of Queen Elsa (voiced by Idina Menzel) and the gang.

Universal's film adaptation of Andrew Lloyd Webber's "Cats" opened in fourth place, at $6.6 million. The movie from Tom Hooper ("The King's Speech") boasts an all-star cast including Taylor Swift, Ian McKellen, Judi Dench, Jennifer Hudson, Idris Elba and James Corden.

But the musical has received stunningly bad reviews. The Guardian called it a "dreadful hairball of woe," while for the Wall Street Journal it was "a confusing litter box of intentions".

In fifth spot was Lionsgate's droll murder mystery "Knives Out," at $6.5 million. Daniel Craig plays a Southern detective hired to unravel the bloody death of a wealthy patriarch.

Rounding out the top 10 were:

"Bombshell" ($5.1 million)

"Richard Jewell" ($2.6 million)

"Queen & Slim" ($1.8 million)

"Ford v. Ferrari" ($1.8 million)

"Black Christmas" ($1.8 million)