Solo: A Star Wars Story has struggled at the box office - but that was always going to happen. The latest film in the rapidly expanding Star Wars canon is out in the wild, and much has been made of Solo's soft box office performance compared to the other entries in the recently revived fantasy franchise. The Ron Howard-directed sci-fi spinoff grossed $103 million over the four-day Memorial Day weekend. By all appearances, that seems like a lot of money, but it's the lowest opening so far of any Star Wars film under the management of Disney. It's parsecs behind Star Wars: The Force Awakens, which opened to a record-setting $247 million, and not even within spitting distance of its fellow "Star Wars Story," Rogue One, which bowed to $155 million in 2016.
So, is that it? Is Star Wars over? The discussion is definitely measuring that up, but the truth is far more nuanced and optimistic than that. The fact of the matter is, due to a number of wide-ranging factors few could have predicted, Solo wound up costing far more than originally intended. With an inflated budget, box office expectations similarly ballooned out of the realm of reasonable possibility.
The truth, as understood from the start, forgotten in a mountain of hype, and now rediscovered in hindsight, is that Solo was never going to be a box office concern.
- This Page: Solo's Production Troubles Made It Impossible To Be A Big Hit
- Page 2: Solo's Real Problem Was that It Wasn't A Star Wars Event
Solo Went From Cheapest To Most-Expensive Star Wars Film
In Hollywood, budgets for big-time blockbusters have an unfortunate tendency to spiral out of control, but the major studios still put forth an effort to make sure they avoid spending more on a movie than they reasonably intend to make back. After all, movies, in addition to being auteur-driven benchmarks of visual storytelling, are also a business driven by profits.
With that in mind, it's worth noting that the original allotted budget for Solo: A Star Wars Story was somewhere in the ballpark of $125-150 million. From the outset, Solo was slated to be the cheapest Star Wars film under the Disney banner, significantly less expensive than the likes of Rogue One ($200 million), The Last Jedi ($217 million), and The Force Awakens (~$250 million). As such, Disney and Lucasfilm did their due diligence in spending more money than the film would ultimately be worth to the company in the long run.
Enter Phil Lord and Christopher Miller, who were hand-picked by Solo and The Empire Strikes Back screenwriter Lawrence Kasdan, who felt their bouncy comic sensibilities would be a good match for the tone set in his script. Unfortunately, the directors ultimately proved to be a poor fit for the material, and their style wound up taking the story too far into screwball comedy territory. In addition, their relative inexperience in the realm of mega-budget blockbuster movies led to unexpected budget overruns.
The end of this well-documented story is that producer Kathleen Kennedy made the bold and unexpected decision to fire Lord & Miller and bring on Ron Howard to shoot new material. Despite the film only having a few weeks left in production under Lord & Miller, Howard was allowed to reshoot, according to reports, "70-80%" of the movie. At this point, it was no longer about keeping costs down, nor in irresponsibly shoving out a movie of dubious quality, but in producing a chapter of the Star Wars canon which lives up to the legacy of the franchise.
On the plus side, the final product of Solo: A Star Wars Story is clearly the film envisioned by Lawrence Kasdan and shepherded under the watchful eye of Ron Howard. On the negative, Lucasfilm and Disney essentially shot one movie for the price of two. By the time the dust settled, the reported budget of Solo was in the range of $250 million, though some sources suggest the number is actually much closer to $300 million, the biggest ever for a Star Wars movie. Budgets and box office expectations rise in tandem, and it was clear early on that Solo was facing an increasingly uphill battle on the long road to profitability.
Had the film come in on budget, then a muted take would have been acceptable. Instead, it need a record-shattering opening and incredible legs to be a true success. And that was never going to happen...
- Star Wars 9 / Star Wars: Episode IX (2019) release date: Dec 20, 2019
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