It's been a week since Star Wars: The Last Jedi arrived in theaters, and the fandom is still buzzing about Rian Johnson's ambitious and rule breaking sequel. Johnson's installment subverts fan expectations, and delivers a Star Wars movie unlike anything we've seen before. And while fans are busy debating every frame frame, the implications for the future of the franchise go far beyond simply critical reaction. The measure of the film's success is also related to merchandise sales, and it looks like The Last Jedi is producing far less action figures and toys than its predecessor Star Wars: The Force Awakens.
This news comes to us from THR, which reports the massive decline in merchandise production for The Last Jedi. The crates of merch coming from overseas are reportedly down 56% from the time leading up to J.J. Abrams' The Force Awakens two years ago. This is also a 47% decline from the merch around last year's Rogue One: A Star Wars Story. But why has this change happened, and what could it mean for the future of the franchise?
One explanation for this decline is the hype revolving around the new Star Wars installments is dwindling a bit every year. The Force Awakens was the first addition since 2005's Revenge of the Sith ten years earlier. The hype was at a fever pitch, and generations of fans rushed to the theaters to see what happened to the original trio of heroes since the second Death Star was destroyed in Return of the Jedi. Rogue One also represented a game changer for the the property as the first standalone film. But now that we can expect a new Star Wars movie every year for the foreseeable future, the hype is likely going to decline a bit in comparison.
Another possible explanation for the decline in Star Wars merchandise is actually not about the film series, but the distributors. Toys R Us has had a notoriously bad year, recently filing for Chapter 11 bankruptcy. As such, the giant toy store corporation may have simply ordered less toys, for fear of over buying and suffering more financially.
While toy sales might seem separate from the business of filmmaking, it's actually major factor for blockbusters like superhero movies and the Star Wars franchise. Star Wars protagonist Rey was left out of merch for The Force Awakens, leading to massive backlash. And Iron Man 3 infamously scrapped the idea of a female villain a few years back, citing that fewer toys will be sold if the big bad was a woman.
We'll just have to wait and see how merchandise sales, as well as fan reaction, affect the development of JJ. Abrams' Episode IX. But we have a few years until the current trilogy is ended with that sequel.