Four movies - a DCEU entry, a Transformers spinoff, an anime adaptation and a Sherlock Holmes reimagining - are currently competing for the same December 2018 release weekend. Since Star Wars returned to the big screen in 2015 with Star Wars: The Force Awakens, the franchise has dominated the Christmas window. However, with three massive end-of-year hits behind them, Disney/Lucasfilm is approaching 2018 a little bit differently. They're taking a gamble on a May release date, and leaving multiple other films fighting over the increasingly crowded weekend of December 21.
Solo: A Star Wars Story is the next anthology flick from the Disney/Lucasfilm team, and is set for release on May 25, breaking the usual December pattern and taking a gamble that the popularity of the franchise will guarantee a hit even with a Memorial Day weekend release. Last year saw the slowest Memorial Day weekend in nearly twenty years, which doesn't bode well for this one, although it is worth noting that Disney still managed to top the box office that weekend with Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales. It seems that the studio may be banking on the same kind of franchise draw that Pirates had for Solo, and there is every chance it will be another box office smash.
Whether Disney's gamble pays off or not, the decision to move 2018's Star Wars installment to May means that the December box office is getting crowded, as multiple other films aim for a release date on the weekend of December 21. The only DCEU offering of the year, Aquaman, hits screens this weekend, but it's attempt to conjure up another Wonder Woman level hit for DC and Warner Bros. is Transformers spin-off, Bumblebee. And these two aren't the only ones competing over the same weekend: Holmes and Watson, a comedic take on the classic Sherlock Holmes stories (starring Will Ferrell and John C. Reilly) joined December 21 club from an August slot, and now live-action manga adaptation Alita: Battle Angel has also just moved to the same weekend, from an original release date in July.
Not only are these four major movies competing over a single opening weekend, but both weekends on either side come with their own major releases. December 14 sees the release of Mortal Engines (the highly anticipated adaptation of the novel of the same name), as well as the animated Spider-Man: Into The Spider-Verse. Christmas Day, meantwhile welcomes both Bohemian Rhapsody (a biopic of Queen and Freddie Mercury) and Disney's Mary Poppins Returns. There's no doubt that Mary Poppins will be a massive hit with the Christmas crowds (and is presumably why Disney chose to move the Star Wars release date - the magical nanny is arguably better suited to a Christmas holiday audience), while Spider-Man and Mortal Engines are likely to draw a crowd from its existing fandom; that's a lot of competition in one month, let alone the one week.
Given how overcrowded the latter half of December currently is, it's likely that at least some of these films may move in order to avoid being lost amidst the heavy hitters. Alita: Battle Angel and Holmes and Watson are the biggest candidates given they've already moved once, although after Jumanji's success against The Last Jedi, is possible that they'll choose to stand and do battle with the combined might of Transformers, Disney and the DCEU.
At the moment, the final weekend of November and the first of December are currently empty of any major releases, making either a wise choice for any of these two smaller films to shift to. Of course, it's also possible that one of the bigger names could choose to shift, giving themselves a better chance at a big opening, as well as an extra couple of weeks before the traditional January box office slump. At the moment, though, this is all speculative, as all four films seem to be taking a stand in the absence of Star Wars.
- Solo: A Star Wars Story (2018) release date: May 25, 2018
- Aquaman (2018) release date: Dec 21, 2018
- Alita Battle Angel (2019) release date: Feb 14, 2019
- Bumblebee (2018) release date: Dec 21, 2018