Moving Episode VIII is not an easy move to make. Here’s why.
Star Wars has (almost) always been a May-release film. Episodes I-VI were all released in May. Its a summer movie phenomena. But The Force Awakens in December was actually pretty convenient too. We had time off. The kids had time off. We all went to see Star Wars. But is that a good reason to move Ep8 to December. I don’t think so. There’s a lot of downsides to it – and upsides too. Some are business-related and some are project-related.
Pro: Own more capacity
The trouble with May/summer releases is that there are many other big-name releases that will fight for screen space. Going to December means that Star Wars can dominate more of the theatre times. The Force Awakens proved that theatres could be all Star Wars and round the click during the release weekend. That gets harder for the Summer. Every weekend there’s usually a new big release that’s going to want a dedicated theatre or 3. Star Wars would still have to fight for screens in May. In December they can rule the roost.
I think the industry knows this as well. With this move to December, we know that Avatar 2 is also moving its release date. It would not be a good deal for anyone for two big releases to compete at the same time.
Con: Harder to plan toys
There are conspiracy theories out there that Disney moved Ep8 to December to sell more toys. I don’t know why that would be a conspiracy – they’re a toy company and they want to sell more toys at Christmas (duh!). Christmas is when toy makers make all their money.
But this is naive. Everyone knows selling toys at Christmas is great business. But it’s hard to do all the lead-up activities and supply chain planning for said toys. Disney had a real hard time with this past year. They needed a new series of Toys on shelves starting in September (and created the “Star Wars Day”
scam holiday). This is a challenge because there were characters they couldn’t make because it would spoil the film (Think: Starkiller Base-themed toys; Rey with Luke’s light saber; FN-2199; Different color X-wings, etc.). Even Electronic Arts has mentioned that their Battlefront game had to be limited to Original Trilogy characters because of secrecy with the film. With May releases, you can make a toy out of everything. December releases create too many impediments for Toy producers to account for.
Pro: More time to make a good film
My hope is that this delay was driven by a desire of Lucasfilm to create a better film. We’ve gotten rumors about this where rumored actors are no longer being considered so more focus on the new characters could be written-in. So let’s hope this is all an investment in making a better film.
Con: Don’t make me wait!
C’mon, we’re ready to see Ep8 right now. So why make me wait another 8 months when I’m already infected with Star Wars fever.
Pro: Star Wars is kinda a December / Christmas thing now
Even though the theatrical releases were in May, the TV marathons were always in December. Christmas was always a time to get new Star Wars stuff. This years’ experience with TFA didn’t really seem out of place. Star Wars at Christmas time felt just fine for me.
Con: Summer vacation > bad weather and winter break
There’s a reason films released in December don’t have big openings. It’s an incredibly busy season. People are stressed – year-end activities at work; holiday shopping; bad weather (in much of the Northern Hemisphere, esp the US & Canada). So it’s hard to get people to the movies. Unless it’s something like Star Wars. Star Wars is a cultural touch stone in the U.S. and much of the rest of the world. People will go whenever. But December is still a harder month to go to the movies.
Pro: We’ve done it already
No time like the present to start a new tradition. What happened in the past is… in the past. Setting up Star Wars to be a December tradition seems like it would only need 2 or 3 opportunities to cement it. It looks like that’s what we’ll have: Ep7, Rogue One, Ep8. So it looks like we’re on this path whether we like it or not.