Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.
Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.

The Empire Strikes Back tops the box office—no, this isn't a headline from 1980

Darth Vader
Darth Vader
Screenshot: Star Wars Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back

It’s been a while since our last Weekend Box Office update, but we had to strike back with this one. Get it? “Strike back”? Okay, if that horrible joke hasn’t made you click out of this story already, here’s what you came for: The Empire Strikes Back took in an estimated $175,000 across 483 locations on Friday, and is expected to rake in $400,ooo to $500,000 total by the end of the weekend, according to Deadline.

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The Empire Strikes Back, celebrated its 40th anniversary in May and is considered by many as one of the best sequels of all time—or at least is considered that by our Popcorn Champs columnist Tom Breihan, who wrote about Empire in February:

Before The Empire Strikes Back, the whole idea of the sequel was to essentially retell the story of the first movie, adding extra wrinkles but hitting the same reassuring beats. In Jaws 2, Chief Brody once again goes into maritime battle with a giant killer shark. In Rocky II, Rocky Balboa once again fights Apollo Creed. Neither film is anywhere near as good as its predecessor, but there’s precious little evidence that anyone even tried to make those films as good as their predecessors—though Jaws 2 at least has the fun bit where the shark eats the helicopter. The sequels are simply good enough. They’re victory laps.

The Empire Strikes Back is not a victory lap. Instead, Lucas and his collaborators took the Godfather Part II approach. Empire imagines the larger world around that first Star Wars movie—the circumstances that led to the events of the film, the ripple effects of the climactic battle, the changing relationships of the characters.

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Empire’s dominance follows Ghostbusters’s success over the July 4 weekend and Jurassic Park and Jaws’ victories the weekend before. Black Panther and Inside Out also made this weekend’s box-office list, with drive-ins being the main venue for moviegoers to enjoy anything on a big screen during the coronavirus pandemic as big theater chains like AMC wisely keep pushing back their reopenings.

But it’s not just classics that are bringing out audiences. Horror film Relic, which The A.V. Club’s Katie Rife gave a B+, is also tracking to do well this weekend. Relic follows in the footsteps of fellow horror film The Wretched, which performed well in May.

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Halfway through this hell called 2020, these are the films with the highest domestic box-offices takes of the year so far, according to Box Office Mojo:
Bad Boys For Life ($204.4M)
1917 ($157.9M)
Sonic The Hedgehog ($146.1M)
Jumanji: The Next Level ($124.7M)
Star Wars: Episode IX - The Rise Of Skywalker ($124.5M)

A.V. Club Editor in Chief...but really just a She-Ra, Schitt’s Creek, Grey’s Anatomy, Survivor, Big Brother, Top Chef, The Good Place superfan.

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