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Star Wars: Episode VII release date pushed back to Christmas 2015

The Lord of the Rings trilogy and James Cameron's Avatar scored huge box office numbers with a December release. Will Star Wars follow suit?

The Walt Disney Company has announced that Star Wars: Episode VII will be released on 18 December 2015.

The film was expected to come out some months earlier in the summer, when most major blockbusters are released.

But by moving it to the festive season, Disney has ensured that Star Wars will avoid an already-crowded 2015 summer schedule that includes the Avengers sequel, Minions (the Despicable Me spin-off), reboots of the Jurassic Park and Independence Day franchises and Man of Steel 2, which will see Superman and Batman on-screen together.

Releasing in December often ensures a long and commercially fruitful box office run. The Lord of the Rings films, Avatar and the Sherlock franchise have all done astounding business with a late release in the fourth quarter.

The film is being directed by JJ Abrams and overseen by Lucasfilm president Kathleen Kennedy. They recently hired Lawrence Kasdan (who co-wrote The Empire Strikes Back) to work on the script.

There have been suggestions that delays in the writing process may have pushed back the movie's release date.

Screenwriter Michael Arndt was working on the screenplay, but has since moved on to other projects.

Abrams told Deadline: "It became clear that given the time frame and given the process and the way the thing was going that working with Larry in this way was going to get us where we need to be and when we needed to be.

"Working with Larry Kasdan, especially on a Star Wars movie, is kind of unbeatable."

Despite the delay, the film should make a considerable contribution to Disney's coffers.

Yesterday, the company announced a net profit of $1.39bn (£860m) in the third quarter of this year.

The strong performance of Pixar's Monsters University is said to have "partially offset" the losses incurred by box office flop The Lone Ranger.