The release date of Star Wars: Episode IX will be Dec. 20, 2019, Lucasfilm announced Tuesday afternoon on Twitter. The announcement comes just hours after officially revealing that J.J. Abrams would return to the franchise to write and direct the film.
The news is unsurprising to industry watchers with a late-stage directorial (and writer) change, after the ouster of Colin Trevorrow came two years after his announced involvement and several months into pre-production. The initial announcement of a new sequel trilogy of Star Wars films had this reportedly in a May 2019 release - the still untitled Han Solo film will be released May 25, 2018 - but this change does put it perfectly on par with Star Wars: The Force Awakens, released the week before Christmas weekend 2015, and Star Wars: The Last Jedi, coming Dec. 15, 2017. Han Solo's date, falling on a Friday that is also the direct anniversary of the first Star Wars film, has been talked about as unchangable, despite a director shift on that project that came after weeks of principal photography.
This December release date gives Abrams and company more time to prepare and make the film they want, hopefully ensuring it'll be a successful third chapter and end to the trilogy. It's rumored that this may even be the end of the Skywalker Saga (the episode-titled films) as a whole, so it makes sense to give the movie an extra seven months of development.
However, this puts Disney in much stiffer competition than they would've been in May 2019. Dec. 20 is just one week after the much-anticipated Wonder Woman 2, and two days after Sony's Masters of the Universe reboot, putting a lot of franchise/genre entertainment within one 8-day span. Disney also has Frozen 2 coming out three weeks earlier, on Nov. 27, but the House of Mouse actually prefers an every-three-weeks release schedule in both the start of the summer season and the early holiday movie season, so that fits right along (indeed, they also have a live-action fairy-tale slot held for Nov. 8, 2019).
This would also leave Disney without a new film in theaters from Avengers 4's release on May 3, 2019 until Toy Story 4 seven weeks later on June 21. Expect them to fill that slot, either taking the 24 or the currently completely empty May 31 date with something.
For fandom, however, this means that there will be a sudden drought in Star Wars entertainment. The current Star Wars animated series, Rebels, is wrapping up its run with a fourth and final season starting in October. With no successor announced, we could be in for a long wait between May 2018 and Dec. 2019 for any new Star Wars on-screen content. The hope and expectation is that another series will take its place, but none has been announced yet.
Star Wars: The Last Jedi, from writer/director Rian Johnson, is next up, hitting theaters this December.