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'Rogue One' could be Disney's fourth billion-dollar film of 2016

"Rogue One" jumped at lightspeed at the box office over the weekend, putting Disney in position to potentially become the first studio with four billion-dollar films in one year.

The standalone prequel to "Star Wars: A New Hope" garnered $155 million at the domestic box office, making it the second-highest domestic December opening of all time. It came in just behind "Star Wars: The Force Awakens," which was released last year.

Disney had expected "Rogue One," which CEO Bob Iger called "an experiment, of sorts," to bring in between $135 million and $140 million domestically over weekend. After toppling that goal — and pulling in $290.5 million globally — "Rogue One" is now poised to be Disney's fourth billion-dollar film of 2016, Erik Davis, managing editor of Fandango, told CNBC.

"I think it's going to be close," Davis said.

"Captain America: Civil War," "Finding Dory" and "Zootopia" are the other Disney films that have passed the billion-dollar mark this year.

Unlike "Batman vs. Superman" and Marvel's "Captain America: Civil War," which had the highest opening weekend grosses for 2016, "Rogue One" featured a cast of relatively unknown characters. Though it received mixed reviews, its early box-office success could entice Disney to take more risks in the future, Davis said.

The studio is slated to release two more saga films (sequels to "The Force Awakens") and a standalone, yet-unnamed Han Solo film. It is also slated to release a third standalone film, but has yet to confirm a title or release date. Disney did not immediately respond to CNBC's request for comment.

Fans have long speculated that a third film will either feature Boba Fett or Obi-Wan Kenobi. However, Davis said it's possible the third movie could feature a new set of characters that are loosely connected to the main "Star Wars" narrative. He compared it to what Disney has done with its Marvel films.

Marvel has taken lesser known superheroes and integrated them into the bigger cinematic universe. For example, "Guardians of the Galaxy" and "Doctor Strange" are relatively niche comic books, but were merged into the canon of the Avengers films through the Infinity Stones story line and were incredibly successful at the box office.

"Guardians of the Galaxy" brought in more than $773 million globally, and "Doctor Strange" has raked in more than $652 million at the global box office.

"It goes to show you that 'Star Wars' as a brand is probably the strongest brand next to Marvel Studios," Davis said.

Scene from Star Wars Rogue One.
Source: Disney

While Marvel used to release one new film each year, the Disney division is slated to release three films in 2017. "Guardians of the Galaxy: Volume 2," "Spider-Man: Homecoming" and "Thor: Ragnarok" are all due out next year.

Davis speculates that fans could see a similar treatment given to future "Star Wars" films, allowing the company to create a series of interconnected narratives.

"Disney creates a vision and sticks with it," Paul Dergarabedian, senior media analyst for comScore, told CNBC. "They treat every film, prequel, spin-off, etc., as if they are in the top tier. There are no second-tier movies here."

Dergarabedian noted that Disney has been able to create experiences, not just films, and drive consumers to the box office.

"['Rogue One'] is the kind of movie that makes going to the theater an essential part of your diet," he said. "This is the kind of movie that reminds people that this is the best way to see a movie."

Some 95 percent of moviegoers are already planning to see next year's new installment in the "Star Wars" saga, according to Fandango. Not to mention, 62 percent said they will see "Rogue One" more than once in the theater.

"Disney has a legacy of quality that keeps you coming back," Dergarabedian said. "Episode VIII is going to be freaking huge."

That film is scheduled for release in December next year.

Disclosure: CNBC's parent Comcast owns Fandango and Universal Pictures.