With Solo: A Star Wars Story now in our rear-view mirror, we begin the long year and a half wait to return to a galaxy far, far away in Star Wars: Episode IX. That trilogy-capper from director J.J. Abrams is in the unenviable position of being the sequel to the incredibly divisive Star Wars: The Last Jedi. The reactions to Rian Johnson's film have ranged from valid criticisms to calls for a remake to indefensible hatred. Despite all this, arguably the biggest challenge Episode IX will face is not fan reactions, but competition at the box office, as no shortage of other big movies are slated to release in the fertile holiday ground looking to siphon away dollars from Star Wars' coffers.
Since blockbuster season now runs January to December, studios have no problem placing tentpole events at the end of the year and even within the sphere of the mighty Star Wars franchise. Sequels, reboots, big IPs and franchise titles are all opening in November and December of 2019. The DCEU's guiding star Diana Prince returns in Wonder Woman 1984 in November, as does Daniel Craig's 007 in James Bond 25. The Terminator franchise reboots again in November 2019 alongside the debut of iconic video game speedster Sonic the Hedgehog. And, of course, Frozen 2 arrives to dominate the box office. Some of these titles might peter out by the time December rolls around, but some, like Frozen 2, may have serious staying power.
Things don't get too much easier once December hits, as Murder on the Orient Express sequel Death on the Nile, as well as Universal's Wicked both provide interesting counter-programming to the sci-fi bombast of Star Wars. Also opening in December, a week before Episode IX, is Jumanji 3. Some of these titles could shift and get delayed, and others could be added, but this is a lot of big name movies. As Forbes explained, the sheer amount of movies opening in this two-month span is a bigger threat to the global performance of Episode IX than any boycotts or fatigue. Some of these titles will inevitably take away dollars from Episode IX that it would have likely enjoyed had it been running unopposed. Even within the Disney stable, guaranteed juggernaut Frozen 2 is opening less than a month before, Episode IX. This isn't exactly the same as Avengers: Infinity War opening less than a month before Solo, but it is something to consider.
When Star Wars returned in 2015, the adult comedy Sisters performed well as counter-programming, but that movie didn't have the benefit of wide-appeal and a family friendly rating. Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle proved last year just how well another family friendly action movie can do even in the orbit of a Star Wars movie. Star Wars isn't the only game in town, and while another big sci-fi blockbuster won't be foolish enough to open the same weekend, it has been proven that money can be made with family-friendly movies and counter-programming released near Star Wars. This may end up leading to fewer repeat viewings and a lower box office for Episode IX, regardless of the reaction to the film itself.
Star Wars: Episode IX releases on December 20, 2019. For movies hitting theaters this holiday season and the rest of the year, check out our 2018 release schedule.