Disney's distribution chief has commented on Solo: A Star Wars Story's box office opening coming in well below where early tracking indicated it would. The second Star Wars anthology film after Rogue One, Solo was controversial from the get-go because it recasts the Han Solo role made iconic by Harrison Ford, among other things. The film's cause wasn't helped when original directors Phil Lord and Chris Miller were fired with a few week's left in production and replaced by Ron Howard, but it managed to overcome that and earn decent reviews from critics on the whole; in fact, some are already arguing that Solo deserved better reviews than it got and is under-appreciated.
Despite that and early box office tracking predicting a record-breaking turnout for Solo over the Memorial Holiday weekend, the film ultimately disappointed at both the domestic and global box office. Solo earned $84.7 million in its first three days of release stateside, which is easily less than half that of the openings for the two Star Wars Episodes released by Disney and Lucasfilm, as well as a drop of more than 45% from Rogue One's $155.1 million U.S. debut a year and a half ago. Ever the class act, Howard has acknowledged that Solo "didn't meet projections" on social media, but also noted that its opening was a personal best for himself as a director.
Disney distribution chief Dave Hollis was similarly measured in his statement to THR about Solo's opening, saying "There's a question of frequency, and how many times people will go to the movies. Is this too much and too soon for a third time in a five-week period?" Hollis is of course referring to the fact that Solo not only had to compete with Fox's Deadpool 2 one week after it opened to a hefty $125.5 million in the U.S., but also Marvel Studios' Avengers: Infinity War, which continues to post big numbers a month after it bowed to $258 million stateside alone. In other words, U.S. moviegoers had already spent a lot on going to see films this month even before Solo arrived.
With no major tentpoles due to arrive until Incredibles 2 in mid-June (and no live-action ones until Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom a week later), Hollis added that he thinks it best to wait and see how Solo performs over the next few weeks before firmly deciding "how we feel" about the film's commercial turnout. He also acknowledged Solo's disappointing overseas box office debut and noted that Disney/Lucasfilm has already begun to re-examinine their strategies to make sure that things play out differently when the next Star Wars film, Episode IX, hits the scene:
"We have a lot of work to do in trying to understand this. We are all over it and will spend a lot of time digging into why things happened the way they did in various markets. We have a year and a half before Episode IX comes out."
The 18-month break between Solo and Episode IX should benefit the Star Wars franchise in other ways too. There's a fair argument to be made that Solo hitting theaters five months after 2017's Star Wars: The Last Jedi hurt the movie financially and diminished its status as an "event", in combination with other factors (like the greater competition that Hollis referenced). Disney/Lucasfilm may have even predicted as much would happen, which is why they have yet to set a release date for a Star Wars movie after Episode IX - allowing them more flex room to decide not only which developing Star Wars films get a green-light, but also how to best release them and avoid repeating their missteps with Solo.
- Solo: A Star Wars Story (2018) release date: May 25, 2018
- Star Wars 9 / Star Wars: Episode IX (2019) release date: Dec 20, 2019