In 2012, Disney shocked the world when they purchased Lucasfilm for the small sum of $4 billion. From the beginning, the Mouse House made clear their intention to revive the beloved Star Wars film franchise, beginning with the core saga's return in Star Wars: Episode VII - The Force Awakens. In addition to the sequel trilogy that continues the Skywalker family story, the studio is also developing standalone Anthology films (Rogue One, young Han Solo, etc.) to make Star Wars movies an annual occurrence.
As of now, Lucasfilm has a slate of projects planned out through 2020 (three saga films, three Anthology spinoffs), but they're not going to stop there. Star Wars is a franchise that generates billions of dollars annually through merchandise and licensing sales alone, and its setting of a galaxy far, far away creates endless possibilities for narratives. Disney's plan is to milk the Star Wars cash cow for all it's worth for as long as they possibly can.
Wired had a report on how Lucasfilm is building the Star Wars franchise, which included their vision for the future. Apparently, the studio is looking decades ahead and have no clear end game in sight:
The company intends to put out a new Star Wars movie every year for as long as people will buy tickets. Let me put it another way: If everything works out for Disney, and if you are (like me) old enough to have been conscious for the first Star Wars film, you will probably not live to see the last one. It’s the forever franchise.
Famed Star Wars writer Lawrence Kasdan (who co-wrote The Force Awakens with director J.J. Abrams) explained why this could work, citing the franchise's rich mythology and plethora of possibilities:
“Star Wars is its own genre. Like all genre, it can hold a million different kinds of artists and stories. They say ‘Buddha is what you do to it.’ And that’s Star Wars. It can be anything you want it to be.”
Considering that there's still a month until The Force Awakens hits theaters, even the most die hard Star Wars fans have to be surprised by this. While Star Wars 7 will no doubt be a smash hit at the box office, it remains to be seen how critics and audiences will respond to it. If it gets poor word-of-mouth, that could kill enthusiasm for future installments; an abrupt halt to the forward momentum the brand's been riding for three years. Moviegoers have sent a few tentpole properties into a state of flux this year, as a number of badly-received blockbusters underperformed commercially.
It may be crazy to consider at this moment in time, but having annual Star Wars releases for an indefinite period of time could induce franchise fatigue... eventually. The first two trilogies saw installments come out every three years, meaning they became cinematic events that people looked forward to. Being constantly bombarded with new movie news, trailers, and merchandise endlessly going forward may not tire the supremely dedicated Star Wars followers, but casual moviegoers could lose interest after a while. Especially if just one of the upcoming films end sup being a disappointment.
Since Star Wars has a large presence in various forms of media, there are several avenues Disney can take when making the property anything they want it to be. Numerous novels, comics, and other books have created a new franchise canon, giving fans the chance to read stories that were not part of the movies. These publications could easily take the place of films going forward, continuing the adventures of Rey, Finn, and Poe Dameron after the events of the sequel trilogy (considering they all live). Star Wars will always be a film first, but it's evolved into so much more since 1977. Take a look at Star Wars Rebels on Disney XD as another great example.
Still, it's important to keep in mind that it is very early. To quote a famous Jedi master "always in motion is the future," so Lucasfilm's plans could be altered between now and 2020. Lucasfilm president Kathleen Kennedy is aware of this, as she appears focused on the tasks at hand instead of plotting too far ahead:
“I’ve talked about it with everybody at Disney. Alan [Horn, chair of Walt Disney Studios] is very supportive of it. But at the same time, he’s right when he says we’ve got a lot on our plate. And then I’ll be working with them on Indiana Jones.”
The Indiana Jones franchise is not really a priority for Lucasfilm at this time (dedicating all of their resources towards Star Wars), but they remain committed to bringing the famous archaeologist back to the big screen. No timetable is in place for an Indiana Jones 5, but series producer Frank Marshall confirmed that Harrison Ford would not be recast as the hero. Whatever the case may be, Disney is going to be set financially for a number of years.
Star Wars: Episode VII - The Force Awakens hits theaters on December 18th, 2015, followed by Rogue One: A Star Wars Story on December 16th, 2016, Star Wars: Episode VIII on May 26th, 2017, and the Han Solo Star Wars Anthology film on May 25th, 2018. Star Wars: Episode IX is expected to reach theaters in 2019, followed by the third Star Wars Anthology film in 2020.
We'll keep you updated on Indiana Jones 5.