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Woo boy, the release date wars are getting heavy. We’re a year and a half from Star Wars Episode VII returning to cinemas, a December 2015 date landed after much speculation regarding May ‘15, the month traditionally reserved for the franchise. As J.J. Abrams toils away in pre-production, however, those plans might be shifting once again, particularly if Disney chair Alan Horn decides to get rowdy with it.
Speaking to Bloomberg News, Horn illustrates that while December has already been earmarked for the next film, the second and third pictures in this proposed trilogy could return to their traditional May release dates.
"No, we're not sure yet. We may revert -- the Star Wars dates have been May -- and we may revert to that at some point. But it depends on the readiness of the screenplays and where we are. But this first one will be December 18th of 2015. So we'll start with that and then we'll see."
Horn also confirms that the bulk of principal photography has not commenced, with a few early shots done in Abu Dhabi. He also suggests that these films will cost the industry-standard "$175-$200 million." Compare this to the $115 million-range budgets of the recent trilogy, and it’s clear Disney is trying to amp things up. George Lucas is also being retained as a consultant for the new films, according to Horn.
"George is a consultant. The understanding is when he sold the company -- and he did sell the company to the Walt Disney Company -- so he's very aware of that. So we now are the primary drivers behind this property. But he is a very valued person. He's the father of all this. Kathy interacts with him, back and forth I think."
Well, that’s some Godfather shit right there.
On one hand, you want them to take their time making Star Wars: Episode VII and subsequent films: Disney is playing with one massive sandbox that, until now, has belonged to only one guy. On another, release dates are filling up left and right, and with sequels to 2015 movies already being announced, maybe Star Wars needs to claim one of those upcoming May slots now, before they’re taken.
There are two reasons for this. One being, obviously, competition: let’s say Disney gets another Star Wars out two years after Star Wars: Episode VII. In May 2017, there’s already a Lego Movie sequel. In 2018, Sony’s got The Amazing Spider-Man 4 staked out. Obviously, Star Wars is the bigger fish (there’s always a bigger fish…) but do you really want to wade into those waters when you know there are other fish milling about? The months looks skimpy, but those slots are certain to fill up in the coming months.
The other is that Disney’s already got a few other blockbusters lined up, and they’re not in the business of making hits, they’re in the business of making smashes. Disney is already opening the summer of 2017 with an untitled Marvel movie, which some suspect is a third Avengers film. If two of their hits are in close proximity, they could siphon off viewers from each other. Studios release movies to score that massive opening weekend. But with Marvel, Pixar and now Lucasfilms, Disney wants to dominate entire months. How will they manage?