It’s hard to say a movie is nose-diving when it takes in more than $83 million in its opening weekend. But when that movie just so happens to have Star Wars in its title, the box office expectations sit atop an astronomically high plateau.
In a rare moment of candor from a blockbuster studio famous for staying on message, Disney is admitting the tepid opening performance of Solo: A Star Wars Story over Memorial Day weekend (the film was originally projected to hit as much as $150 million) raises questions the studio will seek to answer as it moves forward with its ambitious plans to unload tons more new content in its dramatically-expanding Star Wars universe.
“We have a lot of work to do in trying to understand this,” Disney distribution chief Dave Hollis told The Hollywood Reporter after Solo’s weekend numbers had been tallied. ”We are all over it and will spend a lot of time digging into why things happened the way they did in various markets. We have a year and a half before Episode IX comes out.”
Solo director Ron Howard even tweeted out a call for more people to check out the movie, acknowledging it fell short at the box office but asking fans to judge the movie on its own merits.
Analysts blame Solo’s performance at least partially on potential fan fatigue with the increasing release frequency of new Star Wars movies. Solo comes roughly five months after the release of The Last Jedi, leading industry insiders to “concede Disney and Lucasfilm aren't likely to release two Star Wars movie so close together again, regardless of whether they are anthology films…or part of the official episodes, like Star Wars: The Force Awakens and its follow-up,” THR notes.
The outside competition didn't help much, either. Sandwiched into a release schedule already jam-packed with blockbusters, including two Marvel movies — Avengers: Infinity War and Deadpool 2 — that have met or exceeded their own record-setting aspirations, the release timing for Solo: A Star Wars Story also asks a lot from potentially fatigued movie-goers who’ve been keeping theater seats warm in recent weeks.
Hollis himself seemed to agree, telling THR ”[t]here’s a question of frequency, and how many times people will go to the movies. Is this too much and too soon for a third time in a five-week period?"
The most expensive Star Wars film ever made, Solo falls only a month after the debut of Marvel's tentpole Infinity War (the fastest movie ever to earn $1 billion worldwide), and only one week after the premiere of Deadpool 2 (second only to its predecessor on the list of biggest R-rated film debuts). Disney also slotted Solo into a pretty narrow release window, considering the Mouse House is only about three weeks away from the release of Incredibles 2.
Add to that the upcoming release of Universal’s Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom on June 22, and what Disney is left with is basically three wide-open weekends — Memorial Day and the two weeks after — for Solo to earn the brunt of its tentpole money. For a Star Wars movie, that’s not a lot of time coupled with a slow start.
At least Solo will be flying, well, solo on the Star Wars release calendar for a solid year and a half before Disney serves up something new. Han, Chewie, Lando, and L3-37 all will have the spotlight to themselves for the next 19 months, until Episode IX lands in theaters on Dec. 20 of 2019.