Solo: A Star Wars Story is the first film in the franchise since Disney bought Lucasfilm that could bomb. If it did, what would that mean for the future of Star Wars?
With only three months to go until the film reaches cinemas, Solo remains a topic of much discussion; how and why the studio have managed to keep a tight lid on one of 2018’s most anticipated films? The trailer was received with much enthusiasm, which will probably bring some relief to Disney given the unusual position Solo is in for a Star Wars movie; this will be the fourth film released in the franchise since the Disney acquisition, the second anthology following Rogue One, and the first whose success is not a guaranteed thing.
While the trailer seemed to alleviate some fan concerns, there's a lot working against the film, with production issues looming large; between the firing of the original directors (The Lego Movie's Phil Lord and Christopher Miller were replaced by Oscar-winner Ron Howard), the subsequent extension of reshoots, and reports main star Alden Ehrenreich needed a last-minute acting coach, Solo has been a movie mired in confusion for many months now. This is nothing unique to the franchise - Rogue One famously underwent major reshoots, and Colin Trevorrow was replaced as director of Star Wars 9 by J.J. Abrams - but the sheer scale of the carnage has made some uneasy. Following the backlash from some subsets of fans to The Last Jedi, the fate of Solo has suddenly gained greater weight than the possibility of a mere flop in Disney's canon.
This Page: Will Solo: A Star Wars Story Be A Flop?
Will Solo: A Star Wars Story Be A Flop?
Before such scenarios can be theorized, it’s important to define what a “flop” is under these circumstances. In the age of mega-budget multi-film expanded universe blockbuster filmmaking, success can be a deceptive thing. Traditionally speaking, a film can be judged as a hit for the studio if it makes back two-and-a-half times its budget. This helps to account not only for the cost of making the picture but for marketing and distributing it to the world. Therefore, a film that costs $100m needs to make at least $250m to break even. Of course, the more money it makes, the better, and Disney have gotten very used to cracking that much-coveted $1 billion box office ceiling. Of the 32 films that have grossed over $1 billion worldwide, Disney made 16 of them.
This record is also true of Star Wars. Although it's still a big chunk of change away from reaching The Force Awakens's $2bn, The Last Jedi is still the 9th highest grossing film ever, while Rogue One also made over $1 billion. The benchmark is clearly in place for what Disney expect from Solo (in fact, the only entry in the series to not break a billion adjusted for inflation is Attack of the Clones); this is a billion dollar vehicle, and not reaching that will inspire much debate over the franchise’s future.
But is that a fair measure? Even if Solo doesn’t make that kind of money, it’ll still probably make enough to be at least financially sound. If it can crack $750 million (the film's budget is unknown, although it has been reported Howard's reshoots doubled the budget), it's in firm profit and will rank as one of 2018's highest grossers, potentially proving Star Wars can overcome any hurdle.
And that's nothing on the real measure: quality. Most viewers don’t care all that much about box office revenue or inter-studio planning. Their main concerns will be if the film does good on the legacy of one of the franchise’s most beloved characters. That's a different matter (and one that could have a knock-on effect on the film's box office legs). Solo being a disaster? That's unlikely. It underwhelming? All bets are off.
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