Disney Should Start Making Mid-Budget Star Wars Movies

Lando Calrissian Obi-Wan Kenobi and Boba Fett

The Star Wars franchise needs to start exploring movies with lower budgets. Disney is currently reassessing their entire Star Wars business model following Solo: A Star Wars Story's disappointing box office return, placing a hold on some future standalone anthology movies and taking less creative risks with directors. That said, their best bet may well involve making mid-budget movies if they want to improve their odds of turning a profit.

Star Wars may have started as a lower budget saga (even the prequels had comparatively moderate budgets), but having grown to the second most successful movie franchises of all time, according to Box Office Mojo, with a domestic box office total of over $4 billion (the MCU has it beaten by roughly $2 billion), it's no wonder that Disney would equip the franchise with considerable funds for the new era. However, despite the fact that sizable budgets worked for Star Wars: The Force Awakens, Star Wars: The Last Jedi, and Rogue One: A Star Wars Story, Solo's failure has made this approach moot. Frequent complications during production set a negative course for Solo, Disney, and, by extension, the future of the entire Star Wars franchise.

Related: Is The Obi-Wan Kenobi Film Dead... Or In Exile?

So, as risky as it might be for Disney and Lucasfilm to make major monetary changes to a franchise that has remained successful for well over thirty years, it might be their best shot at preserving quality and sustaining longevity. And to their benefit, they're not necessarily breaking new ground - the original Star Wars movie only cost $11 million dollars! Adjusted for inflation, that's still under $50 million in 2018 dollars.

Learning From Solo's Mistakes

Even if Disney hadn't bloated Solo's budget to a whopping $250 million, its current US gross is still at a paltry $196 million (Rogue One: A Star Wars Story more than doubled that with a US gross of $532 million). So, whether or not audiences were as interested in a standalone Han Solo movie as they were a prequel to A New Hope is irrelevant; Disney's production strategy on Solo was sorely lacking. Instead of moving its release date to prevent it from competing with movies like Avengers: Infinity War and Deadpool 2 (both of which beat Solo in sales), they siphoned money out of its budget in order to keep it on schedule, thus hurting their chances at turning a profit. And as it so happens, Solo isn't necessarily an exception in this failed approach.

It's not the first time Disney has seen inflated budgets. 2011's Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides saw its budget grow to roughly $410 million before marketing. Disney pumped excess money into the movies throughout production, and even though it managed to hit $1 billion internationally, it was still an underperformance and failed to break even domestically.

Related: Lucasfilm's Mistake Was Choosing The Wrong Star Wars Stories

Now, with a rough blueprint of failures from which Disney can learn, moderating budgets for future Star Wars movies is paramount. And while they'll likely maintain generally the same budget for Episode IX as they did for Star Wars: The Force Awakens and Star Wars: The Last Jedi, even the latter saw a dip in box office returns by roughly $300 million. So, more and more, the mid-budget route seems increasingly more favorable than settling on excess and potential losses.

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Key Release Dates
  • Star Wars 9 / Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker (2019) release date: Dec 20, 2019
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