What does Solo's box office stumble mean for the future of Star Wars?

The spin-off has underperformed at the box office – so how will The Mouse react?

Jack Shepherd
Tuesday 29 May 2018 15:30
The new Han Solo
The new Han Solo

Disney has been somewhat rocked by Solo: A Star Wars Story’s opening weekend.

The movie – the fourth Star Wars instalment released by the studio since purchasing LucasFilm for $4 billion – took just $103 million (£77.76) over the memorial weekend in the US, way down on the projected $130 million (£97.93 million) to $150 million ($112.99 million). Cinemagoers in the UK were also unreceptive to the spin-off, Solo managing just £7.6 million over the long weekend, including bank holiday Monday and Thursday previews. Overseas, the grand total for the weekend was just $68.2 million (£51.46 million), a figure seen as a major disappointment by all.

For comparison: Rogue One, released December 2016, managed an opening weekend of $155 million (£116.96 million) in the States, and a four-day total of £17.3 million in the UK. The Gareth Edwards-directed movie – which went through a troubled production – ended up with a total box-office gross of well over $1 billion worldwide. Analysts now estimate Solo may struggle to reach half that.

Those numbers mark quite a calamity for Disney, who spent a rumoured $250 million (£188 million) on Solo before including marketing costs. Reports now indicate the movie will have to gross upwards of an estimated $500 million (£376 million) to break even.

Perhaps surprisingly, Disney has already recognised that the movie has underperformed.

Dave Hollis, the studio’s head of worldwide distribution, told press they are going to “spend a lot of time digging into every question in every market to get the answer” as to why the movie disappointed. And while many reasons for the failure have been given by those outside the studio – such as Solo being released too close to The Last Jedi, the movie receiving middling reviews, and cinemagoers having already spent their money on Deadpool 2 and Avengers Infinity War – the biggest question surrounds how the lacklustre release will impact the future of Star Wars.

Analysts have been offering up their thoughts, many concluding that Disney need to take their foot off the pedal and not release spin-offs so close to a main-saga instalment again (The Last Jedi reached cinemas less than six months ago). Episode IX marks the next big release, the JJ Abrams-directed movie already has a December 2019 release date, giving cinemagoers have a good 18 months until their next fix.

Interestingly, Disney has decided not to confirm which Star Wars movie will come after that (presumably a movie that will come December 2020). Rumours mainly suggested that an Obi-Wan Kenobi spin-off could come after Episode IX, while reports last week confirmed Logan director James Mangold will write and direct a Boba Fett movie.

Solo: A Star Wars Story trailer

Considering Solo took a known hero and gave him an origins, would either of these movies really be a good idea? One reason fans have not been as excited for Solo (and therefore not shown up at the box office) has been the general idea that giving Han Solo an origins story seemed pointless. We already know how Han Solo’s life eventually plays out; we know he finishes the infamous Kessel Run in record time and wins the Millennium Falcon from Lando. Why not leave those stories to the imagination? In short, fans have been asking: ‘What’s the point?’

That’s not to say Solo’s not heaps of fun and a good movie in itself – it is – but exploring known territory has never been a huge box office seller (the underperforming Wolverine: Origins makes for a good example). The majority of people want new and exciting stories. Rogue One, you could argue, nullifies this point. But that movie featured only brief cameos from old characters, instead focussing on Jyn Erso and her suicide squad. With Boba Fett and Obi-Wan Kenobi, we know the outcome.

One selling point for an Obi-Wan Kenobi movie is that Disney already have the perfect actor for the job, Ewan McGregor, who played the character in the prequels. Casting the iconic character would not be questioned as McGregor was widely seen as the best part of that trilogy – whereas Alden Ehrenreich’s Han has been given a rough ride by fans. There was also some light setup for a possible Kenobi movie in Solo (that cameo) which could be an interesting story to tell (although, again, we know the eventual outcome thanks to Rebels).

Access unlimited streaming of movies and TV shows with Amazon Prime Video Sign up now for a 30-day free trial

Sign up

Boba Fett remains a harder sell. Much of the appeal surrounding Fett has been the mystery surrounding the bounty hunter and to explore that through a two-hour film could ruin the illusion. Plus, we already have Fett’s origins in the prequels, a storyline that was not particularly well received. However, should Disney let Mangold create something completely different in tone to other Star Wars movies – mimicking how the director made Logan so different to the other X-Men movies – then that could itself be enough to draw fans in. Whether Disney are keen to change things up considering Solo and Rogue One had huge production issues, stemming from creative differences with the original directors, remains unknown.

With Star Wars fans seemingly clamouring for something new, perhaps we should then expect Disney to next release one of their mysterious other projects following Episode IX. We know The Last Jedi director Rian Johnson has been working on a non-Skywalker trilogy, as have Game of Thrones showrunners David Benioff and D. B. Weiss. While no details on either trilogy have been released, a new set of main-saga films not affiliated with classic characters could be the adrenaline shot the series needs. As Marvel has proven, stories set in the same universe can sell tickets even when released close to each other, they just need to concentrate on different characters and move the overall story forward rather than dwell in the past.

There were, of course, other factors at play with Solo. Howard’s movie marks the first modern Star Wars movie not to be recognised as ‘certified fresh’ on the aggregate website Rotten Tomatoes, scoring just 70 percent. The movie also picked up an A- Cinemascore, while the other three modern Star Wars movies all achieved an A rating. Then there’s the competition Solo faced. Deadpool 2 and Avengers: Infinity War both came out the proceeding month, with cinemagoers having spent lots of their hard-earned cash already and maybe saving up for something new (Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom, Incredibles 2, Sicario 2, Ocean’s 8, and Ant Man and the Wasp are all coming this Summer). The UK market also suffered thanks to good whether and the champions league final.

The stars certainly were not aligned for Solo this weekend past, and Disney will be doing all they can to make sure the next batch of Star Wars movies do not suffer the same fate.

Join our new commenting forum

Join thought-provoking conversations, follow other Independent readers and see their replies

View comments