‘Solo’ Wins Box Office Crown, But Feels Like Loss for ‘Star Wars’

Expected to cross $100M mark over 4-day holiday weekend, well short of expectations.

May 27, 2018 1:11 pm
Alden Ehrenreich is Han Solo, Donal Glover is Lando Calrissian and Phoebe Waller-Bridge is L3-37 in SOLO: A STAR WARS STORY. LUCASFILM
Alden Ehrenreich is Han Solo, Donal Glover is Lando Calrissian and Phoebe Waller-Bridge is L3-37 in SOLO: A STAR WARS STORY. LUCASFILM

Disney accountants have a bad feeling about this.

Solo: A Star Wars Story, the studio’s latest entry in the most powerful film franchise in the universe, took the top spot at the box office over the weekend — but opened to a much lower than expected $83.3 million over the Friday to Sunday window. (The film is expected to finish with $101 million over the four-day Memorial Day weekend). The film did even worse internationally, earning just $65 million for a global total of $148.3 million.

These opening numbers may seem stellar for most movies, but the sci-fi was eclipsed by Deadpool 2‘s $125 million debut last week. Comparisons with the last Star Wars standalone movie, Rogue One, make the box office receipts look even worse: That film, despite introducing characters unfamiliar to fans, earned $155 million in its opening weekend in December 2016.

“The main two issues that hurt Solo were: One that there was just too short amount of time since the last Star Wars film, and two that it landed in a crazily competitive marketplace,” Paul Dergarabedian, senior box office analyst for ComScore, told RealClearLife.

“I’m always loathe to talk about any kind of blockbuster fatigue, but it may have just been too soon for another Star Wars film.”

Going into the weekend, Solo faced longer odds of Kessel Run through a much more crowded field of rivals at the multiplex than the last three Star Wars movies, which were all released in mid-December. Fox’s Deadpool 2 finished in second with a strong $42.7 million in its second weekend, and Marvel’s Avengers: Infinity War finished third with $16.5 million in the F-S-S period, padding its five-week haul of $621.7 million. That’s a lot of competition for many of the same ticket-buyers.

The Han Solo origin story, which stars Alden Ehrenreich in the titular role that Harrison Ford made famous in four previous Star Wars films, also had been besieged by bad press from the beginning of production. Lucasfilm CEO Kathleen Kennedy made the unusual step of firing original directors Phil Lord and Chris Miller (The LEGO Movie) during filming gave the impression of a troubled project. It’s testament to their replacement, director Ron Howard’s, yeoman work and veteran presence that the film landed in theaters on time and with largely positive reviews. But it had an image problem right from the start.

Still, projections as late as last week were that Solo would earn between $130 to $150 million in North America over its first four days.

And the disappointing returns may give Lucasfilm pause with its aggressive strategy of mining all the Coaxium out of the franchise. Star Wars films were once enigmatic and rare events, but Solo is  the second release in five months — following Star Wars: The Last Jedi.

In addition to next year’s Episode IX, the studio has reportedly been proceeding with two new trilogies and a Boba Fett standalone film. From Solo‘s ending, it’s also apparent that Lucasfilm had planned more installments in the story of the scruffy-looking scoundrel.

It’s a lot to ask of Star Wars fans to maintain the same level of excitement across that many Parsecs. Especially since many grew up having to wait three years between The Empire Strikes Back and The Return of the Jedi to find out how Ford’s Solo was going to escape after being frozen in Carbonite.

A key will be for Lucasfilm to rebuild that cool factor by the time Star Wars: Episode IX is released on Dec. 20, 2019.

Star Wars is still a gold standard brand for movie franchises,” said Dergarabedian. “But you need to let the brand build up a new head of steam. (Lucasfilm and Disney) need to give it some space and time over the next year and a half to build back up that sense of excitement and that audience anticipation.”

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