Disney reportedly rejected Lucasfilm's proposal to delay Solo: A Star Wars Story to December 2018 in the wake of the spinoff's infamous production woes. When the film was first confirmed by the studio in 2015, LEGO Movie directors Phil Lord and Chris Miller were set to helm, but things went catastrophically wrong. Four months into production, the duo was fired due to creative differences, and Ron Howard came in to replace them. Solo then endured extensive reshoots, with Howard essentially remaking the entire film to get it ready for its release date.
Howard worked very efficiently to ensure Solo premiered in May, but the results are hardly what Lucasfilm was looking for. The spinoff failed to meet box office expectations and has grossed only $194.8 million domestically as of this writing. Many pointed to Solo's summer debut as a primary reason for why it underwhelmed, questioning why Lucasfilm didn't shift the prequel to a potentially more lucrative window. As it turns out, they wanted to, but Disney blocked it.
According to Star Wars News Net, Lucasfilm wanted to move Solo to December 2018 when it became apparent substantial work needed to be done. Unfortunately, Disney forced them to stick to the May date, citing frustrations with other Star Wars films encountering delays. To make matters worse, Disney took the hard stance of refusing to give Solo "preferential treatment" for marketing, as they didn't want Star Wars to interfere with promotion for Avengers: Infinity War. The first trailer for Solo didn't debut until February, roughly three months before release.
This development is quite alarming. Since the Star Wars renaissance began in 2015, the franchise has achieved phenomenal success releasing over the Christmas holiday. The Force Awakens, Rogue One, and The Last Jedi combined to gross more than $4 billion at the worldwide box office and ended their respective years of release as the highest-grossing film domestically. It stands reason to believe Solo would have been able to post higher numbers if it was released in the same timeframe. A delay would have been a smart business decision, allowing Solo to open far away from Infinity War and Deadpool 2. On the other hand, the Mouse House had Mary Poppins Returns in line for December 2018 well before any issues with Solo popped up. Additionally, they probably thought the Star Wars brand was popular enough that it could hang with the aforementioned comic book blockbusters, but that obviously backfired.
Ideally, this will be a one-time fluke situation for Lucasfilm and Disney. Episode IX should be well-positioned for success next Christmas (most likely with an advertising campaign that replicates the ones of its sequel trilogy predecessors), and the studio is currently taking the time to reevaluate their plans. From the sound of things, they've scrapped other individual character spinoffs like Obi-Wan and Boba Fett, choosing to focus on other projects for the time being. It'll be fascinating to see where Star Wars goes from here, but they've hopefully learned whatever lessons there were to be had from Solo.
- Star Wars 9 / Star Wars: Episode IX (2019) release date: Dec 20, 2019