Sorry gang. I know we missed a Fan Feature last week, so it’s time to catch up. When last we met, we debated which Star Wars film is the best ever. This week’s topic comes from fan Michael Petruzzelli, who ponders the impact economics will have on the future of the Star Wars franchise. More specifically, will Star Wars improve now that Disney has made its money back?

Star Wars Franchise
George Lucas when he sold Lucasfilm to Disney in 2012. (Image: Disney)

That’s an interesting question, indeed. Disney went all-in when it purchased Lucasfilm from George Lucas back in 2012. Four billion dollars is a gargantuan investment in today’s entertainment market. It’s no stretch to suggest that Disney’s primary goal, first and foremost, was to recoup that investment. Certainly, the Star Wars franchise is meant to entertain. Notwithstanding, production and development are expensive. Not only did Disney need to make its money back on the purchase, but it also needed to cover its expenses while attempting to do so.

Will the Star Wars Franchise Improve Now that Disney’s Made Its Money?

It took Disney nearly six years to the day to turn a profit on Star Wars. The question, however, is whether it produced a sub-par product in that effort. The official Star Wars franchise re-launch came with The Force Awakens in 2015. While some complained about the overemphasis on familiarity and nostalgia, the film did exactly what it had to do. It bridged the gap between older fans and younger, blending practical effects and CGI, old characters and new.

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The Rebels of Rogue One: A Star Wars Story (Image: Disney/Lucasfilm)

Then came Rogue One: A Star Wars Story. For many, me included, Rogue One instantly joined the likes of The Empire Strikes Back among the best films of the Star Wars franchise. Things looked to be well on track with two, quality films to kick off the Disney/Star Wars era. But…. The dollars weren’t rolling in fast enough. And that’s when things took a turn.

Was The Last Jedi Just a Money Grab?

Like it or hate the movie, The Last Jedi again did exactly what it needed to do, just like The Force Awakens. This time though, the main purpose was to fill the Disney coffers and put the Star Wars franchise back in the black. A strong marketing campaign, and fans’ desire for anything Star Wars, helped the film meet its mark. But at what cost? Was choosing Rian Johnson to direct, knowing he’d do something “different”, the right call?

Image: Disney/Lucasfilm

The Last Jedi, while serving its money-making purpose, fractured the fan base with its divisive tone. And then Disney rushed Solo: A Star Wars Story (a film no one particularly wanted) to theaters with a bungled marketing campaign to near-disastrous results. Was it too much, too soon for the Star Wars franchise? And did the combination of The Last Jedi and Solo dilute the product too much in an effort to earn back that $4 billion?

What Now for the Star Wars Franchise?

With any luck, now that the money’s been made, Disney and Lucasfilm can refocus on the quality of the product rather than the quantity of dollars it produces. Based on what’s to come in 2019 alone, that may very well be the case. The Mandalorian comes to Disney+ later this year, and Disney spared no expense with a known and bankable commodity in producer Jon Favreau. Likewise, it is smartly bringing back The Clone Wars, to the delight of fans everywhere. And then, of course, there’s Star Wars: Episode IX.

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J.J. Abrams is back, and rumored to be course-correcting the sequel trilogy in the aftermath of The Last Jedi. Old school fan favorite Lando Calrissian is back, and Abrams will be utilizing previously unused footage of Carrie Fisher to give Leia the sendoff she deserves. I can’t help but believe that Episode IX will, once again, do what the Star Wars franchise needs the final, episodic Star Wars film to do. Namely, it will ease the sting of fans’ displeasure with The Last Jedi, bring the Skywalker saga to a satisfying close, and transition the franchise to its future.

Thanks to Michael for this week’s JJ’s Fan Feature. Until next time, fanatics!