Lucasfilm and Disney are quickly approaching the premiere of their next Star Wars film, as part of their announced slate to bring the franchise back into theaters every year. Star Wars: Episode VII – The Force Awakens started off their plan in the best way possible, and Rogue One: A Star Wars Story has now been tasked to follow up to a lower, but still high, level of success. Rogue One takes a departure from all previous seven films by not being a saga film – though the main saga will be picked up again in Star Wars: Episode VIII in 2017.
Episode 8 is one of the most anticipated movies of next year, as it will hopefully answer the burning questions audiences left The Force Awakens with. Whatever questions are not answered or new ones that arise throughout the next film will have to wait until Star Wars: Episode IX hits theaters in 2019 to be addressed. Despite it being more than two years away from potentially premiering, it appears filming on Episode IX could begin sooner than expected.
Project Casting (via Omega Underground) is asserting that Episode IX will begin filming in April 2017 at Pinewood Studios UK. This has been one of the primary filming locations for both Episode VII and VIII, so a return is hardly a surprise. Instead, the reveal that production will begin so early is curious. For comparison, Episode VIII started filming in February 2016 and will be released in December 2018. This has given director Rian Johnson plenty of time to work through the movie and make what is hopefully another great addition to the franchise. If Episode IX does begin filming in April, the movie will absolutely be on track for a 2019 release.
Lucasfilm and Disney have so far not confirmed a release date for Episode IX, but either May 2019 or December 2019 seems likely. May used to be Star Wars‘ month to release movies but as Disney has seemingly given the first week of the month to Marvel Studios’ properties, putting two major releases three weeks apart crowds the summer season and cannibalizes the long running success of each. For 2019, Marvel Studios has the fourth and Untitled Avengers movie hitting the first week of May, so it would be a surprising move for Lucasfilm to date the conclusion to this trilogy (and potentially saga films as a whole) so close to another one of Disney’s biggest tentpoles.
Instead, an April start date could mean the beginning of pre-production as well, or director Colin Trevorrow is being given a massive head start to meet a December 2019 date. December is where The Force Awakens made its mark on the history books and both Rogue One and Episode VIII look to do the same. The young Han Solo movie will arrive in May of 2018 instead, to avoid competing head-to-head with Avatar 2 in December. Episode IX seems most likely to take the December 2019 spot (what with Avatar 3 not arriving until 2020) – and if so, it should have more than enough time to become a satisfying conclusion to the trilogy, if the rumored filming start date is accurate.