We are on the eve of Star Wars Celebration 2023 London, and there’s a lot of excitement over what the weekend holds in store.
But it could be a whole lot more.
Yesterday StarWars.com posted an article about how to watch from home, but the headline is a bit deceiving: you won’t be able to watch the main things from home. The daily livestreams only start after the major panels (which includes the Lucasfilm Studio Showcase on Friday morning and Ahsoka on Saturday morning), confirming what most already expected: that they wouldn’t be streaming these panels. Star Wars Celebration Live will still stream various interviews and other features, as well as select panels, but it is a complete shell of what it used to be.
There was a time – actually up until last year’s Celebration – where the show streamed most of the major panels. Sure, there was occasionally certain footage that was reserved only for those in the room, but those watching from home could still follow along with almost everything happening at Celebration. People watching from home got to share in the excitement of hearing the panels, seeing certain images, viewing some trailers, and a whole lot more. And none of that affected the people who were in attendance in negative ways. For many years at Celebration that main focus was on whatever film was releasing later that year (like, for example, the sequel trilogy), and those panels were a highlighted and celebrated part of the stream.
Last year, however, for reasons that baffle the mind and have never been even remotely acknowledged by Lucasfilm, the decision was made to not show any of the major panels. And what was once a thrilling weekend celebration for all Star Wars fans to share turned into a frustrating experience where our first experience of certain matters came second-hand through social media and through leaked clips, images, and trailers. And there’s absolutely no way of defending it by saying that it was geared toward those in attendance, because with the changes in not streaming the panels they weren’t able to be viewed by most in attendance either, but only by those who won the lottery to get into the panel.
In short, Star Wars Celebration is a fine weekend with some hype, but it could be a whole lot more. There was some hope that after the fiasco of last year’s livestream, coupled by the fact that this year’s event is taking place in Europe, the folks at Lucasfilm would have come to their senses and made some corrections. Guess not.
It’s a golden opportunity to pull in fans all over, to get them excited about what’s to come. But for whatever dumb reason the company seems to think that they’ll get better marketing and promotion by not really making things available to fans. I mean, this year’s Celebration is a pretty significant moment for Star Wars as they look toward the future, and what better way to build excitement for what’s coming than to make it completely inaccessible to most of your fans? Seems like a winning strategy.
It’s not even about the money. With Disney+ there’s a prime opportunity to make these things far more available. Disney+ has tried out certain “special access” things before, where subscribers can pay extra to get special access to something. Why couldn’t they charge for a digital Celebration pass on Disney+ that would allow people to log on and view the panels that are going on? I’m confident that there are a whole lot of people who would pay for it. And as someone who goes to my fair share of conferences, an overwhelming number of them in the post-pandemic world offer some semblance of a digital pass like that. It’s completely baffling why Lucasfilm doesn’t.
And the bigger picture is that Lucasfilm’s marketing continues to be puzzling, because the company continues to bank on the fact that people will just follow the Star Wars brand and not need a whole lot else. I’m increasingly skeptical that is going to be able to carry things in the years to come, but there’s no signs of the company having learned from that. They’re too busy learning the wrong lessons and making things less accessible to their fans than at almost any point since Disney bought them.
Celebration is a golden opportunity for Star Wars fans all over the world to engage and to share their excitement of the franchise and their excitement about what’s to come. Instead, Lucasfilm doesn’t care, and they’re screwing it all up in the process.