In 2012, the Walt Disney Company bought the production company Lucasfilm from its founder, "Star Wars" creator George Lucas, for $4 billion. Now, the company is offering some details about the what movies it's going to roll out and when.
Last week, The Hollywood Reporter announced Lucasfilm’s plans to make a movie about space pirate and all-around scoundrel Han Solo. It arrives in 2018, three years after “Star Wars Episode VII: The Force Awakens” opens.
That “The Force Awakens” will attract a large audience is a given. Analysts are already declaring it a runaway box office hit, despite the fact that it doesn’t open for another five months and has not sold a single ticket.
"Force Awakens will hit $1 billion without blinking," box-office analyst Phil Contrino told The Hollywood Reporter in April. "If it's really good, it could cross $2 billion." That’s a good thing, as Disney chairman Alan Horn hinted to The Hollywood Reporter in 2014 that “Avengers”-style money was spent making it.
“These large, tentpole kinds of movies, on the expensive side, are in the neighborhood of $175-200 million,” he said. “We need to give the audience, essentially, a full meal in return for their affection and devotion and love for these properties.”
This is true. But despite the “Star Wars” franchise’s reputation for blockbusters, a $200 million investment in the Han Solo movie alone actually comes with some risks.
The movie belongs to a fan-oriented series called “The Star Wars Anthology,” which explores subplots only touched upon in the original films. As such, they represent a true test of whether or not Disney’s purchase of Lucasfilm was worth it. After all, a lot of those fans hated the “Star Wars” prequels. What if they don’t show up? And what if the filmmakers get it wrong and do something stupid, like fill the role of Han Solo with Zac Efron? It could mean another “John Carter”-sized, $200 million disaster for Disney, and bad news for the projects that Lucasfilm has planned.
Here’s a look ahead at what some of those projects are. Some have just begun shooting, some have just entered the development process and some are stalled indefinitely.
“Rogue One” is the opening installment in the “Star Wars Anthology” series. Those who saw the original 1977 “Star Wars” will remember the stolen plans for the evil Galactic Empire’s super-weapon, the Death Star, and “Rogue One” tells the story of the rebels who steal them.
Disney chairman and CEO Bob Iger announced it in March at a shareholder meeting at San Francisco’s Palace of Fine Arts, conveniently located across the street from Lucasfilm. Gareth Edwards of the 2014 “Godzilla” reboot attached as director, and its release date is December 16, 2016.
Episode VIII and Episode IX
Apart from “Rogue One” and the Han Solo standalone film, the only other upcoming “Star Wars” movies with actual release dates are Episode VIII and Episode IX, the second and third films in the new sequel trilogy. Episode VIII has a release date of May 26, 2017, exactly 40 years (and one day) after the release of the movie that started it all way back in 1977.
Although J.J. Abrams, co-creator of “Lost” and director of the 2009 “Star Trek” reboot, is helming “The Force Awakens,” he will not return as director for the these sequels. Rather, he will hand over the reins to Rian Johnson, director of the 2012 Bruce Willis vehicle “Looper.” Filming is scheduled to begin in 2016.
Boba Fett “Star Wars Anthology” film
Until recently, the second “Star Wars Anthology” film was supposed to be about bounty hunter Boba Fett. The Hollywood Reporter, citing unnamed sources, reported that director Josh Trank was taken off of that movie because of “erratic” behavior that he displayed while directing this summer’s “Fantastic Four.” Trank, meanwhile, told the The Los Angeles Times that directing “Fantastic Four” had so soured him on the experience of directing blockbusters that he left the Boba Fett project voluntarily.
“I want to do something original after this because I’ve been living under public scrutiny, as you’ve seen, for the last four years of my life,” he said. “And it’s not healthy for me right now in my life. I want to do something that’s below the radar.” The project is currently in search of a new director.
In February 2012, Lucasfilm began what was to be the rollout of all six “Star Wars” movies in 3D. The first film, “Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace,” had a dismal opening weekend, making an anemic $22 million at the domestic box office. Eight months later, Disney purchased Lucasfilm, and shortly thereafter put the remaining 3D releases on hold.
“Lucasfilm has decided to postpone this fall’s scheduled release of Episodes II and III in 3D,” the studio said to Entertainment Weekly. “Given the recent development that we are moving forward with a new Star Wars trilogy we will now focus 100 percent of our efforts on Star Wars: Episode VII in order to ensure the best possible experience for our fans. We will post further information about our 3D release plans at a later date.”
A strict interpretation of this statement leads one to believe that the 3D re-releases will resume at some point. The technology blog Gizmodo, on the other hand, decided not to go in that direction, and instead relayed this news with the colorful headline, “Lucasfilm Kills 3D Star Wars Re-Releases After Realizing It's Horrible and Everyone Hates It.”
And for Indiana Jones fans....
When Disney bought Lucasfilm, “Star Wars” wasn’t the only franchise in the pot -- there was also Indiana Jones. But while Harrison Ford will reprise his role as Han Solo in “The Force Awakens,” it has been reported that another actor, possibly Bradley Cooper of “American Sniper,” will grab the fedora and bullwhip if there’s a new Indiana Jones movie.
In May, Vanity Fair quoted Lucasfilm president Kathleen Kennedy, who said that a new movie “will one day be made inside this company. When it will happen, I’m not quite sure. We haven’t started working on a script yet, but we are talking about it.”
The lackadaisical wording of this statement aside, it’s probably a safe bet that we’ll see Indiana Jones again at some point. As reporter Joanna Robinson noted in Vanity Fair, “Disney didn’t purchase Lucasfilm just to gaze fondly at Star Wars and Indiana Jones collectibles gathering dust. They did so to make money.”
Daniel Bukszpan is a New York-based freelance writer.