Rogue One: A Star Wars Story hit theaters screens this week, and it's doing really well both critically and financially. This must be a relief for Disney, who's now two films deep in a franchise whose $4 billion acquisition is paying off big time. While there is a certain inevitability to a Star Wars film doing well financially, the long-term viability of the series will be dependant on the quality of each subsequent release, especially now that these releases are annual and not necessarily tied to the same core cast.
The annual releases also pose a more interesting challenge. How do you market an individual film as unique in a series seven episodes deep (and growing)? Fortunately, if any company knows how to market franchises, it's Disney.
The Hollywood Reporter recently talked to Disney's Marketing Chief Ricky Strauss about the challenges of differentiating Rogue One from its predecessors.
"The movie builds on the Star Wars legacy and mythology but has a different feel and complexion. In the marketing materials, there are no lightsabers, there are no droids and there is a brand-new group of actors. When you look at the outdoor campaign, the only thing you can see that is similar are Stormtroopers — but like you've never seen them before, standing on a beach. It's very clear that Rogue One isn't one of the episodic Star Wars films."
Stauss also pointed out that there was a strategic reason for calling it "A Star Wars Story" as opposed to an "Episode."
"What was important to set up early on was that this was a stand-alone film and that you didn't need to see any of the other films. That was also the case with The Force Awakens. We didn't want to make people feel like they had to see the six other movies to understand what was going on."
Good marketing is expensive and can make or break a film. Strauss notes that marketing Episode VIII will be easier since Episode VII - The Force Awakens already did "the heavy lifting." If next year's entry earns them a greater or equal payback and less money is spent marketing it, this may be the surest sign of Disney's success with the franchise.
Are you happy to see Star Wars films finally exploring stories that don't rely on its most prominent heroes and iconography? Let us know in the comments, and stay tuned to Screen Rant for more updates on the series as they hit.
- Star Wars: Rogue One / Rogue One: A Star Wars Story (2016) release date: Dec 16, 2016
- Star Wars 8/Star Wars: The Last Jedi (2017) release date: Dec 15, 2017
- Solo: A Star Wars Story (2018) release date: May 25, 2018
- Star Wars 9 / Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker (2019) release date: Dec 20, 2019