Despite a record-breaking performance in Thursday previews, Solo: A Star Wars Story stumbled in its debut, earning a projected $103 million domestically over the four-day Memorial Day weekend, and another $65 million overseas. That’s the lowest opening for a Star Wars film since Disney revived the franchise in 2015 with The Force Awakens, which will undoubtedly lead to soul-searching and finger-point among executives who envision a seemingly endless expansion that includes another trilogy, a separate series of films, a live-action television series, and potentially a Boba Fett spinoff.
Suddenly, a brand that once seemed impervious to harm — it weathered the Star Wars Holiday Special, The Ewok Adventure and three divisive prequels, after all — displays signs of vulnerability. While we can, and probably should, ponder the state of an industry in which a $168 million global opening is considered a failure, we have to keep in mind that, with a production budget north of $250 million, Solo is the most expensive Star Wars film to date. We probably shouldn’t lose much sleep over the immediate effects to the bottom line of Disney, an international entertainment conglomerate, but we can’t help but wonder about the longer-term ramifications for the franchise.
So, what went wrong with Solo: A Star Wars Story? Although there’s probably a lot of blame to go around, here are some potential factors:
Star Wars Fatigue
Three years separated each film in the beloved original trilogy, from 1977’s A New Hope to 1983’s Return of the Jedi, and the same pace was established 16 years later, when George Lucas returned to launch the far more divisive prequels. But following its purchase of Lucasfilm in 2012 for a whopping $4.05 billion, Disney took a far more aggressive approach to the franchise, with plans to release a new Star Wars film each year, beginning in 2015 with the debut of a new trilogy, for … well, the foreseeable future. Fans, and Disney shareholders, cheered, but there lingered a seemingly unanswerable question: Can there ever be too much Star Wars?
In the buildup to the release in December 2015 of J.J. Abrams’ The Force Awakens, the answer appeared to be a resounding no. The sales of new toys and other merchandise skyrocketed, and the film shattered one box-office record after another on its way to earning a franchise-best $2.068 worldwide. It was followed a year later by Rogue One: A Star Wars Story, the first in a series of “anthology films” sandwiched between chapters of the new trilogy. It too was a hit, grossing $1.056 billion, and seemingly confirming an appetite not only for more Star Wars, but for more movies outside the framework of the Skywalker saga.
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