Solo: A Star Wars Story was met by lukewarm reviews, got off to a shockingly weak start at the box office, and followed it up with a disastrous second-week drop, but there's no reason to be concerned for the Star Wars brand management under Disney just yet.
Solo is unquestionably a disappointment, but following three massively successful Star Wars installments before it, it's hardly a bad sign for the franchise as a whole. While it's easy to compare Disney's massively successful Marvel Cinematic Universe, which doesn't have a box office bomb in recent memory, it's not common for fans or audiences to evaluate the impact of a box office disaster in an otherwise strong franchise, so it's understandable why some would jump to conclusions.
Nevertheless, many are pointing to Solo's failure as a sign of franchise fatigue, failed creative decisions, fan boycotts, and a host of other issues, going so far as to say it's a crack in the foundation that will bring everything down. Or at least get the other spin-off movies canceled or massively delayed. While there will certainly be some adjustments made, Disney's management of Lucasfilm and the Star Wars brand so far has been (mostly) stellar, and there's no reason to be concerned.
- This Page: Star Wars is Still a Box Office Juggernaut
- Page 2: Critics and Audiences Love Star Wars, and Don't Worry About That Fan Divide
- Page 3: What Does Solo's Failure Mean For the Future?
Star Wars is Still a Box Office Juggernaut
When it comes to box office, Star Wars is just as strong as ever. Having three movies in a row break $1bn (with The Force Awakens exceeding $2bn) is an impressive feat. Marvel has six movies (The Avengers, Iron Man 3, Avengers: Age of Ultron, Captain America: Civil War, Black Panther, and Avengers: Infinity War) past that $1bn mark, with Infinity War well on its way to $2 billion, but it took them 10 years to do it, with the first movies to cross the mark back to back (a feat Disney accomplished with its first three Star Wars releases) happening with the two most recent MCU installments, Black Panther and Infinity War. Considering both franchises are owned by Disney, that's a lot of money to the mouse house either way.
There was some negative buzz surrounding The Last Jedi's box office for failing to surpass The Force Awakens, but that view is ignorant of the context The Force Awakens released in. It was a cinematic return of the Star Wars franchise, and the hype of the lead-up to its release could never be replicated. Besides, The Last Jedi was still 2017's highest grossing movie and one of the top grossing titles in film history.
This isn't even new to Star Wars. A New Hope (or, just Star Wars at the time) is the highest grossing of the original 3 movies, even though most people regard Empire as the best in the franchise. This isn't to say box office doesn't matter at all, but when both episodic films released under Disney easily break $1bn and the first spin-off movie, which doesn't feature any classic characters other than some cameos or other minor roles, also breaks $1bn, something is being done right. Which brings us to Solo: A Star Wars Story.
Solo is basically the first bomb of the Star Wars franchise, under Disney or Lucas (no, The Clone Wars movie doesn't count). There's no way around it. The budget was far higher than it should have been, and the box office was way lower than it should have been, virtually guaranteeing the movie won't recoup its own cost during its theatrical run.
While Solo's loss is unfortunate, it's hardly a death knell for the franchise. The story might be different if Solo wasn't a spin-off that experienced major production issues and hit theaters in a notoriously unsuccessful release date following several other major blockbusters only 6 months after the last Star Wars movie with a skeleton marketing campaign. There's sure to be some reflection on the various factors of Solo's demise when it's all said and done, but as far as the rest of the franchise goes, the most drastic reactions we should expect are a more conservative release schedule, more thorough vetting of directors, tighter budget controls (especially for spin-offs), and more comprehensive marketing campaigns.
- Star Wars 9 / Star Wars: Episode IX (2019) release date: Dec 20, 2019