Does The Han Solo Film Have A Release Date Problem?
Star Wars, for the fist time since 1977, finds itself in the unique position of the being the underdog. Not since George Lucas dropped A New Hope on the world has there been so much uncertainty regarding the release of a feature length Star Wars film. When Solo: A Star Wars Story comes out in May it’s a veritable coin flip as to how well it will be received and how much money it will make at the domestic box office.
There aren’t many comparables when it comes to Star Wars as it has redefined box office expectations since the very first release back in 1977. The only to thing to compare it to for many years was itself but now with the franchise reborn in 2015 and comic book movies breaking records all the time we are left scratching our heads a bit on this one.
Its been a while where we enter the season and a Star Wars film isn’t the favorite to take the domestic box office crown. Even Rogue One achieved that feat earning over $530 million here at home. What’s even more remarkable is that it stands zero chance of even winning the month as Avengers: Infinity Wars comes out prior on May 4th and Deadpool 2 on May 18.
It’s odd to think that the franchise is in a bit of slump right now but the so/so reaction to The Last Jedi from fans and the lower than expected box office return puts them in an precarious position. With The Last Jedi still in the news in many ways, is there a chance of franchise fatigue setting in? Typically, there’s been a year or more between films, giving fans plenty of time to resolve any personal issues they may have. But as of this writing, Episode VIII is still playing in over 1,400 theatres, so does this film have a release date problem ahead?
Disney isn’t in the business of losing money, so a profit is always going to be first and foremost but with a rumored budget of close to $400 million thanks to reshoots that may be problematic. But since they are a fastidious bunch, they don’t need us to teach them Film Economics 101, which means earning something above the line isn’t as important as a positive reaction to the film. Studios look to long-term forecasts and profit more from good audience scores than a single films profitability. All that means is Lucasfilm and Disney are playing the long game with Solo.
This film isn’t for the masses the way The Force Awakens and The Last Jedi were, its for a specific Star Wars audience so that will automatically limit box office potential. Also, let’s be honest, no one was screaming for a Han Solo standalone film and the reaction from the first trailer, while mainly positive, is that people are lukewarm on its star Alden Ehrenreich. And you can forget international appeal especially in China where The Last Jedi was bounced like a bad habit. Star Wars has become a homegrown favorite save places like the UK and Brazil, so the main gate will have to come from the United States.
Anything over $100 million on opening weekend would be a dream come true but unlikely as something in the $80-$90 million range is more realistic, especially with crowds still going to Avengers and Deadpool by that time. While they are comic book properties, they share the same demographic of males between the ages of 18-25 which make up roughly 35% of the audience for these films. The good news is it has a few weeks before Incredibles 2 and Jurassic World come out so if it manages a good to great audience score, it has time to hammer away at a respectable domestic gross.
A typical multiplier to determine box office total is x2.5 so if we project an $80-$100 million opening, we’re looking at a $200-$250 million finish for this film in North America. As for international numbers, its really to hard to predict but certainly it won’t top The Last Jedi which is sitting at $700 million overseas. Something more inline with Rogue One seems rational but even that film sitting at $523 seems like a daunting target for Solo.
I truly believe a win for Disney is a strong audience score that will give them enough confidence to push forward with future standalones such as Obi-Wan Kenobi and a bounty hunter mash up film. A potential negative score could give the upper brass at Lucasfilm cold feet when it comes to these riskier titles.
Another issue that could arise from a potential success would be their willingness to reach out to lesser known directors for any future films. While Christopher Miller and Phil Lord weren’t unknowns, they weren’t seasoned veterans either so its very likely that if this movie performs well and Ron Howard gets credit for that then the list of potential names for future films could narrow, especially if your name doesn’t start with two J’s. Already we’ve seen Gareth Edwards get Rogue One pulled out from under him and Colin Trevorrow was unceremoniously given the boot, so Kathleen Kennedy and company may get real conservative, real fast.
Then there’s always the chance of course that Solo bombs completely at the box office and with audiences, in which case it’s the end of the world as we know it.
Till next time…MTFBWY.
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