Reports arose last week that Lucasfilm is approaching next year's Star Wars: Episode IX as a course correction for the entire Star Wars franchise. This report comes on the heels of Solo: A Star Wars Story's disappointing box office returns and a vocal segment of the fanbase's criticisms of last year's Star Wars: The Last Jedi. The Star Wars spinoff is projected to lose Disney $50 million with its lackluster worldwide box office earnings of $392 million, and now the studio is trying to reposition the franchise with audiences to ensure its long-term viability.
The thing is, the move to consciously reinvigorate and compensate for previous franchise shortcomings is a bit of an overreaction by the studio. As with any long-running series, Star Wars ran into its fair share of setbacks long before Solo or The Last Jedi endured these stumbles. Regardless, the franchise has continued to thrill veteran fans and garner millions of new followers around the world.
For all of harsh criticism of The Last Jedi, the film was overall both a commercial and critical success for Lucasfilm, earning over $1.33 billion at the global box office and sitting at an impressive 91 percent on review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes. While the film has, of course, received perfectly reasonable criticism, an independent study conducted last month revealed that a significant majority of online negative responses to the film were generated by automated Russian bots, allegedly in an effort to stir division and strife among Americans on a cultural level by attacking popular hallmarks and brands within American society.
Validity of online criticism aside, Solo did mark a financial loss for Lucasfilm in terms of box office totals, but the Star Wars brand has always been hugely profitable when it comes to merchandising and home video. While Solo did not ignite the box office the way Lucasfilm and parent company Disney had hoped, it generated a whole new wave of merchandising revenue for the company while continuing the brand's active visibility in the general public.
Disney bought Lucasfilm in 2012 for a reported $4.05 billion, and has already earned $4.8 billion on the combined box office totals of 2015's Star Wars: The Force Awakens, 2016's Star Wars: Rogue One, The Last Jedi and Solo, effectively recouping their investment and then some. Disney's recent contract extension of Lucasfilm President Kathleen Kennedy to 2021 is a clear show of confidence in the leadership of the Star Wars brand moving forward.
Even outside of the films, the brand is moving forward. Last month alone saw Lucasfilm launch a brand-new Star Wars animated series, Star Wars Resistance, taking place shortly before the events of The Force Awakens. Additionally, principal photography began on the first live-action Star Wars television series The Mandalorian, which will premiere sometime next year on Disney's upcoming premium streaming service, Disney Play.