Wednesday, 20 June 2018

Disney put STAR WARS spin-off movies on hold

According to Collider, Lucasfilm have put the two Star Wars spin-off movies they have in active development - one focusing on Obi-Wan Kenobi and another about Boba Fett - on indefinite hold, apparently in response to the disappointing box office of Solo: A Star Wars Story.

Solo launched a month ago to stronger-than-expected reviews (given the film's troubled and expensive production history), with especially strong notices given for man-of-the-moment Donald Glover's performance as Lando Calrissian. However, these failed to convince an audience that appeared to be sceptical of the need for a Han Solo origin story and was blockbustered out, having been hit by The Avengers: Infinity War and Deadpool 2 in just the preceding few weeks. With Star Wars Episode VIII: The Last Jedi only hitting cinemas five months earlier, there was also talk of "franchise fatigue" setting in.

Cinema chain owners have blamed the May release date, several apparently having urged Disney to move the film to December. It is possible that Disney deliberately targeted this movie for May as an early test to see if audiences would be prepared to see multiple Star Wars movies in a year, as they do with the Marvel Cinematic Universe, in preparation for a future increase in production cycles. If that test was the goal, clearly it has failed.

Whatever the explanation, the effects have been sobering for Disney's bottom line: in its first month on release, Solo has garnered a spectacularly low $350 million. This has meant that the film has broken even with its production budget, but has not come close to making back its marketing budget (for comparison's sake, all three previous Star Wars movies needed to make back triple their production budget before becoming profitable) and will now need healthy media sales and streamings to become profitable, which may take another year or so.

The Obi-Wan and Boba Fett movies are on hold now whilst Lucasfilm reassess the appeal of those movies: although fans seemed keen to see Ewan McGregor take on the role of Obi-Wan in a competently-directed and written film, news of a Boba Fett film was greeted with utter apathy when it was revealed last month. There also appears to be a strong blowback amongst even casual fans against the endless parade of prequels being announced. A key difference between the Star Wars and Marvel franchises is that the Marvel movies all take place in the same timeline and continuity, with characters crossing over from one to another and each contributing to a larger whole (people who loved Black Panther, for example, were thrilled to see those characters and storylines continuing just a few weeks later in Infinity War). Star Wars has not been doing that, with the prequel side-movies being seen as disposable compared to the main saga films.

Perhaps with this in mind, Disney and Lucasfilm are refocusing their attention on Star Wars Episode IX, which is shooting now with J.J. Abrams wrapping up the story of Rey, Finn, Poe and Kylo Ren that he began in The Force Awakens and is due to hit cinemas in December 2019. Rian Johnson is also developing a new Star Wars trilogy and Game of Thrones producer-writers David Benioff and D.B. Weiss are also developing ideas for a new multi-film series. These two projects remain in active development (although neither is formally greenlit yet).

Whatever the situation, Disney recently turned a profit on their overall Lucasfilm deal, so the $4 billion investment they made in the franchise in 2012 has now come good, but there may be some at Disney who were expecting a much bigger success from the franchise. As some fans have indicated, maybe the golden goose has been squeezed dry and Lucasfilm may be advised to let the franchise rest for a few years after Episode IX?


Wastrel said...

I agree that the lack of interweaving makes peripheral star wars films inessential.

But I'd also point to Marvel's gradually distinguishing the tones of their films as a factor in why they've been able to accelerate their releases. I'd like to see even more differentiation, but there is at least some. If I see Dr Strange this week, I'm not necessarily going to feel like I've already seen Spiderman.

Whereas the new Star Wars films aren't just all in the same subgenre, they're perilously close to all being basically the same film. So it's much harder to get audiences to see the same thing again and again.

Benge said...

As i tried to say in your last Star Wars post, corporations do not calculate profit in the way you suggest. Star wars is not breaking even for Disney's share holders in relation to Disney's overall profitability nor in relation to the risk free interest rate.

Besides, of one adjusts for inflation they have not broken even in absolute terms either.

A serious reevalation of how they handle the franchise is probably in order as you say. A perception of permanent fatigue of the property would be an incredible loss for them.

insurrbution said...

My ideal scenario would be if they self-rebooted Star Wars using this:

I know that's not likely to ever happen, but it'd be the best clean slate one can think of.

Ilya Popov said...

It's like you don't read, Benge.

As Adam explained:

"That's a somewhat odd approach. Yes, Disney could have made more money by lots of different ways. But they are an entertainment and movie company, that's where they make their money. They might have made more money by investing in real estate, or the stock market or BitCoin, but that's not their area of interest.

They paid out x amount of money for a property (Lucasfilm and everything in it) and they have exceeded x amount of money in y amount of profit received. So yes, they have made a profit on the original 2012 deal.

You are correct in that the amount of profit they have made from Lucasfilm properties is lower than the amount they have made from Marvel or Pixar. But Disney will have also factored in the reasoning for that - the traditionally much weaker performance of Star Wars overseas versus Marvel - and will have also counted the strengths, namely that Star Wars makes vastly more money in toys, books and video games than either Marvel or Pixar."

Benge said...

Look at the timestamps, I made all my posts on both articles before Adam responded.

Unfortunately blogspot ate my reply and I'm not retyping it.

To put it short: accounting for inflation Star Wars has not made back the investment yet but most likely will do so by the release of episode IX (barring some catastrophe).

For Star wars to become a remotely successful investment however the profitability needs to ramp up dramatically and the recent trends are *very* concerning.