Is a Star Wars film every other year a good strategy for Disney?

Yesterday, Disney announced release dates for upcoming movies for a ton of projects and franchises, including Star Wars.  After The Rise of Skywalker this December, the next Star Wars movie won’t hit theaters until December 2022.  From that point on, Star Wars will have a film every other December – meaning that they’ll also have a release in December 2024 and December 2026.

So here’s my question: is that a good idea?

I’ll break it down into two separate discussions, because I have different opinions on each of them: first, is it a good idea for Disney to take a three year break after the sequel trilogy?  And second, is it a good idea for Disney to begin doing one every other year instead of every year?

Is it a good idea to take a three-year break?

I think so.  This allows fans the opportunity to breathe and digest the sequel trilogy and, to a larger degree, the entire Skywalker saga.  Star Wars will never be the same after this.  The story that George Lucas began over four decades ago will be brought to a conclusion this December, and that’s a massive deal.  So I think it’s wise for Disney and Lucasfilm to not rush to move on from that.  This allows them the opportunity to truly promote the film and give themselves distance and time before switching gears to a completely new era of films.  Of course, there will be shows and books and comics and games in the next three years, but no films.

Keep in mind too that a three year wait in-between trilogies is nothing, at least compared to Star Wars in the past.  There was a sixteen year gap in-between the original trilogy and the prequel trilogy, and then a ten-year gap in-between the prequel trilogy and the sequel trilogy.  So with that in mind, Star Wars fans have endured much worse.  Three years isn’t that big of a deal.  And it makes sense.

Is a Star Wars film every other year the right way to go?

I’m a bit more divided on this question.  On the one hand, based on the logic I just used, a two year gap is nothing – before the Disney era, every Star Wars film was at least three years apart.  So Disney will still be putting out films at a pace faster than George Lucas did (not to mention all the shows, both animated and live-action, that they’ll be developing simultaneously), but slower than what we’ve become used to in the past few years.

But where I’m a bit hesitant to say that this is a great idea is that I think the reasoning for doing it is (probably) built upon faulty logic.  Bob Iger has previously said that they were going to be slowing down Star Wars films, and it seems tied to the box office disappointment of Solo: A Star Wars Story.  That movie made $392.9 million at the box office, which isn’t a bad haul for a movie… but is for a Star Wars film.  But part of the idea behind Solo‘s May release date (for which Disney is apparently to blame, not allowing it to be pushed to December), was to see whether Star Wars could support movies only a few months apart, like Marvel can.  It seems that the answer to that was “no.”  But I don’t think that requires such a dramatic course correction to the point of a Star Wars film every other year!  Not being able to adequately support and market two movies in a five-month span is not at all the same thing as not being able to adequately support and market two movies a year apart.

On that manner, Star Wars has done very well.  The Force Awakens made $2.068 billion, peaking as the third-highest grossing movie of all-time (it’s currently fourth).  Rogue One made $1.056 billion, peaking as the twentieth-highest grossing movie of all time (it’s currently thirtieth).  And The Last Jedi made $1.341 billion, peaking as the ninth-highest grossing movie of all-time (it’s currently twelfth).  So consider this: three of the four Disney-era Star Wars films have grossed over $1 billion – that’s 75%.  While it’s unfair to compare a franchise with a four movie sample to a franchise with a 22 movie sample, consider that only 36.4% of Marvel films (8 of 22) have topped the $1 billion mark.  Obviously, Marvel is dominant at the box office (they hold five of the top ten spots for highest-grossing films right now), so I’m not debating that – but I am debating the notion that Star Wars can’t support a film every year.

So here’s where I land: if the reason for doing a Star Wars movie every other year is based on some sort of assumption learned from Solo, I think it’s a very poor decision based on some faulty conclusions by Disney.  But if the reason for doing a Star Wars movie every other year is to give them more time to develop and make the product better, more time to market, and more time for fans to interact, then I’m ok with it.

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