Disney apparently fashioned its own noose when it comes to Solo and its subpar box office performance. Its being reported that Disney refused to move Solo: A Star Wars Story from May to December. Disney has long been wanting Star Wars to take what it thought was its rightful place at the end of May where every other Star Wars film was released. This would give Star Wars its tradition and yet leave the holidays open for Disney’s trademark cartoon or feature. Solo was to be the first of the May Star Wars movies from here on.
One would think no big deal. The other movies have done well there. What could go wrong? First off there was a teeny tiny issue that some might of heard about. Lord and Miller were making a Star Wars movie that was not following the Kasdan script and was reportedly taking on an almost Ace Ventura vibe. As I am sure we all know by now, this led to their firing with almost 80% of the movie in the can already. Out goes Lord and Miller. In comes Ron Howard. Howard did an amazing job righting the ship and finishing the movie in plenty of time for May.
The problem was there was little time to polish things off. Lucasfilm was reportedly pushing for a December release not only for more time to polish, but Star Wars has proven so lucrative in the month of December it seemed the smart thing to do. In comes Disney to put the kybosh on the move. Disney was likely more nervous about protecting its precious Marry Poppins title. December also overflowed with other big name titles like Aquaman, Mortal Engines and Bumblebee. The decision not to move Solo turned out to be fatal and is now causing Disney to scramble its Star Wars production.
Disney thought Star Wars to be immortal and all powerful. They now know this is not true. Problem #1 is that this is not 1977 any more. Once upon a time the blockbuster movie season ran from Memorial day through late July/August. The field of movies today has crowded the summer so much that we are now getting blockbusters as early as February and March. Solo opened not only a week after a very popular Deadpool2, but a mere four weeks after the biggest, most anticipated movie since The Force Awakens in Avengers: Infinity War. Audience members are either being asked to come up with funds for three movies in five weeks, or choose. Movies are just too expensive these days, and apparently Solo was the least of the three.
Problem #2 was also Disney’s fault. Most films get a teaser trailer as mush as a year before release with another trailer or two about 90 and 60 days out. Then the TV campaign kicks into gear. With Solo we were not shown anything until February. Disney didn’t want to confuse audiences with The Last Jedi. The other problem is that Disney also did not want to interfere with its marketing blitz for Avengers: Infinity War. Disney’s lack of marketing and promoting killed Solo’s buzz. There was none.
Problem #3 is that Star Wars is not Marvel. Audiences can apparently handle 2-3 Marvel movies a year because they are conditioned to know each is its own movie despite pointing to a common point in the future. Star Wars has always been very linear. To casual movie goers Rogue One was confusing because the average person was expecting more of Rey, Poe and Finn. I was once an advocate of two Star Wars films a year. After Solo I no longer believe that. Star Wars needs to stick to one a year. Solo’s release was too close to The Last Jedi. Last Jedi being as divisive as it was didn’t help.
Has Disney learned anything? Honestly I kinda doubt it. Disney seems to be in knee jerk reaction mode, and I doubt they are done yet. Because Disney made poor decisions with the marketing and release of Solo, they are now shelving all the Star Wars Story movies including the movie fans have been screaming for the hardest – Kenobi. Disney was still pushing for episode 9 to be released in May until JJ Abrams did one of the best things he has done so far. In the mad hunt for an episode 9 director after Trevorrow was cut, JJ refused to do episode 9 unless it went back to a December release date. One would hope that after episode 9 Star Wars will stay in December.