Disney is putting movie theaters in a tight spot when it comes to showing Star Wars: The Last Jedi, outlining terms that are reportedly unprecedented in the industry. It goes without saying that the next episode of the Skywalker saga will be one of 2017's biggest box office hits, as it's poised to dominate the holiday season - much like The Force Awakens and Rogue One the past couple of years. While it's unlikely Episode VIII matches the incredible numbers posted by its predecessor, it will still steamroll any competition that stands in its way come December.
Lucasfilm and Disney are expecting The Last Jedi to make a pretty penny, and they're using their position of power to ensure they reap as many of the benefits as they can. As multiplexes prepare for the massive premiere, they have a set of regulations stipulated by Disney they must follow - or else they'll suffer consequences.
According to the Wall Street Journal, Disney will receive around 65 percent of the revenue generated from ticket sales for Last Jedi from most locations. As a comparison, typically 55 percent of receipts go back to the studio, so this is a "new benchmark" being set. Additionally, the Mouse House is requiring all theaters to show Episode VIII in their biggest auditorium for a period of at least four weeks. Theaters also cannot pull a single Star Wars 8 screening from their schedule unless Disney gives them permission. If an exhibitor does not comply, Disney can take an extra 5 percent of sales, raising their haul to a whopping 70 percent.
Per WSJ's report, these terms won't actually kick in unless the film crosses the $500 million mark domestically, which is almost a given at this point. The Force Awakens shattered the all-time record by grossing $936.6 million in the States, while spinoff Rogue One exceeded even the rosiest expectations by earning $532.1 million. It would take an unforeseen turn of events for The Last Jedi to not earn that much (at least), considering everything working in its favor. Not only is it the direct sequel to America's biggest film ever, it faces borderline nonexistent competition for the first few weeks of its run. Genre titles like Downsizing and Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle are hoping to break through, but they don't present much of a threat for the galaxy far, far away.
The four week rule in particular is the subject of much contention. Rival studios, who have their own major releases during the busy Christmas season, are displeased, as their titles won't be able to stake a claim to the largest rooms. Additionally, theater owners are wary of the effects this might have. The Last Jedi will surely have legs, but odds are its fourth weekend intake will be substantially smaller than its opening frame, and multiplexes will be powerless to swap Episode VIII for a newer movie until the middle of January when the Star Wars buzz has died down. This could negatively impact the smaller markets (WSJ details the owner of a single-screen theater in Iowa), who are stuck between agreeing to these conditions or missing out on the Episode VIII rush altogether. After one of the worst box office years in recent memory, Disney had all the leverage in negotiations, but many will hope this doesn't become a trend.
Source: Wall Street Journal
- 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: Episode IX (2019) release date: Dec 20, 2019