A Break Would Benefit Lucasfilm
People like to compare Lucasfilm to Marvel Studios, but that isn't exactly fair. In the modern age of tentpole filmmaking, Marvel has fine-tuned their formula over the course of a decade, while Star Wars only came back less than three years ago. Yes, Lucasfilm has been at the forefront of the industry for 40 years, but it shouldn't surprise anyone that there's a bit of a learning curve here in the 21st century. Even Marvel had some bumps in the road (The Incredible Hulk) in their early stages. Right now, Lucasfilm is in a bit of an experimental phase where they're testing things out and seeing what works.
Solo was generally well-received by critics and audiences, but there were a number of things Disney and Lucasfilm could have done better. The project was mismanaged on just about every conceivable level, with Lucasfilm willingly letting the production budget sail past $250 million (firing the directors they hired two years prior). Disney, on the other hand, played hardball by reportedly rejecting a proposed release date shift to December 2018 and refusing to let Solo interfere with Avengers: Infinity War promotion. Fortunately, these seem like relatively easy fixes, the studios just need to take some time to rethink their strategies so they put their movies in the best possible position to succeed. In years past, they've demonstrated an adeptness at this, so Episode IX should be a nice rebound (even with Jumanji 3 lurking in the shadows).
Maybe things turn out differently if Solo is a hit and broke the Memorial Day weekend records some thought it would. There would then be something concrete illustrating a sizable market for solo Star Wars character films, and Lucasfilm could confidently announce more. As it stands, an argument can be made they were pursuing the wrong types of Star Wars stories, ones that lacked a clear hook to get audiences excited (you need more of a sales pitch than "Obi-Wan in the desert"). It reads as an intelligent business decision for Lucasfilm to take a step back and not rush into anything that isn't guaranteed to work. They could have been stubborn and forced something, but they'd rather hold off until they were absolutely certain. With all the behind-the-scenes turmoil Star Wars has had recently, that can only help.
For those wondering, it seems highly unlikely either of the confirmed Star Wars film series will be ready to launch by 2020. Benioff & Weiss are currently preoccupied with the final season of HBO's Game of Thrones, and won't shift gears to the galaxy far, far away until after bidding farewell to the Westeros. As for Johnson's trilogy, that is actively being worked on, but the director has indicated he wants to map out the full story before shooting, and there's no telling how long that will take. If the first installment of Johnson's trilogy were to reach theaters in 2020, it would need to enter production at some point next year. Plus, prime release dates in 2020 are hard to come by. Solo was just defeated by Infinity War and Deadpool 2, so Lucasfilm probably wants to avoid high-profile competition. December 2020 already has a showdown between Avatar 2 and Sherlock Holmes 3, so that's out of the question. Indiana Jones 5's month of July has Minions 2 and untitled DC and Marvel films.
The post-Episode IX future of Lucasfilm seems murkier than it was just a handful of months ago, but so far there isn't anything that should raise concerns. What's happening on Indy 5 is fairly common in Hollywood, and the officially announced Star Wars projects are still a go. Of course, the studio is going to need to clear the air at some point in the near future. Since they don't have anything major planned for San Diego Comic-Con, it would be plausible for there to be some kind of an announcement at next year's Star Wars Celebration, which takes place in April. Star Wars 9 will be the focus, but everyone's curious about what's next.
- Star Wars 9 / Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker (2019) release date: Dec 20, 2019