Since Disney purchased Lucasfilm in 2012, it’s gone all out to revitalize the science fiction franchise. But after Solo’s box office numbers came in well under its astronomical expectations, it seems that Disney is going to ease up a bit on the franchise. Disney CEO Bob Iger told The Hollywood Reporter that they did “too much, too fast,” and fans can expect “some slowdown” for the franchise.
Disney has released four films since 2015 — The Force Awakens, Rogue One, The Last Jedi, and Solo — that were a mix of saga films that continued the larger Skywalker storyline. After The Force Awakens blew away box office records and Rogue One performed really well, it seemed like Disney had found a way to just print money, and it was content to release as many films as it could. Last year, Iger indicated that the company was looking at its plans for the next “decade and a half” for the franchise.
But it hasn’t lived up to expectations. The Last Jedi outdid Rogue One, but it didn’t match The Force Awakens’ box office turnout, and while Solo certainly set up the potential for follow-up films, it came in at just under $400 million at the global box office, which is by far the lowest-grossing live-action film of the entire franchise. (The pilot for The Clone Wars did a measly $68 million when it was dumped into theaters.)
Speaking to The Hollywood Reporter, Iger acknowledged that he “made the timing decision, and as I look back, I think the mistake that I made — I take the blame — was a little too much, too fast.” But he notes that while we can expect “some slowdown,” Disney certainly isn’t killing off Star Wars. Iger pointed to J.J. Abrams’ upcoming Episode IX and the variety of projects that have been publicly announced, noting that they’re “at the point where we’re going to start making decisions about what comes next after [Episode IX].” Iger also echoed some of these thoughts about some of Disney’s other ventures, such as its forthcoming streaming service and its Fox acquisition. He noted that for the streaming service, the company will be focusing on “quality rather than just volume.” He also thought it would make sense for Disney to bring Fox’s X-Men franchises under Marvel’s wing: “There shouldn’t be two Marvels.”
There’s a lot in the Star Wars pipeline already: Jon Favreau’s live-action TV series, a new season of The Clone Wars for Disney’s streaming service, an animated show called Star Wars Resistance for the Disney Channel that is currently in production, as well as Abrams’ Episode IX, which is set to be released in December 2019.
Beyond those projects, film trilogies are in development from The Last Jedi director Rian Johnson and Game of Thrones showrunners David Benioff and D.B. Weiss. There are also rumored films being developed about Obi-Wan Kenobi from Stephen Daldry (The Hours) and Boba Fett from James Mangold (Logan). If those were greenlit and on Disney’s schedule, that all amounts to a good eight years of Star Wars — and that’s just what we know about. Oh, and there will also be a big immersive theme park.
Solo seems to have suffered from this rapid pace. It hit theaters just six months after The Last Jedi, and audiences just weren’t as interested. In June, The Hollywood Reporter spoke with people familiar with Lucasfilm in the aftermath of its release, and they said that Lucasfilm was “regrouping” and working out its strategy for the post-Episode IX era for the franchise. They did note that the projects in development weren’t being canceled, but the studio was taking time to rethink its timing and production schedule. Part of that appears to be a slower release tempo for the company. Iger explained that, moving forward, Disney is “going to be a little bit more careful about volume and timing.”
What’s become clear over the last four years is that Star Wars isn’t like Marvel: the MCU has seen 18 films hit theaters in the last decade; 13 of those came from Disney and have steadily come out at a rate of two to three films a year. With its plans to release backbone film trilogies with standalone films sprinkled in around the edges, Disney was clearly eyeing Lucasfilm to keep fans supplied with a steady stream of Star Wars content. But while Disney has been wildly successful with films like The Force Awakens and The Last Jedi, it’s had an incredible amount of trouble with its standalone offerings like Rogue One and Solo, both of which saw turmoil during their productions when Lucasfilm and their directors’ visions didn’t line up, causing their budgets to skyrocket.
Beyond wanting to give Lucasfilm some more breathing room, the last four years have been a fire hose for Star Wars moviegoers. The franchise put out a film every three or so years during the Original and Prequel trilogy years, so four films in that same amount of time is a lot to take in. With all of its ambitious plans, Disney needs to ensure that it doesn’t kill the franchise by offering up too much.