It was announced today that Star Wars: Episode VIII has been pushed back by a full seven months. The film was supposed to be released in May of 2017 (following the December 2016 spin-off movie), but has been delayed until December 15th, 2017. It’s understandable to be a little disappointed.
So now that we know the new when, there’s still the question of why. And that hasn’t yet been answered by anyone at Disney. There’s no news of Rian Johnson running behind schedule. Principal photography is set to start next month in London, although Johnson was spotted off the coast of Ireland, beginning filming as early as last fall.
It’s hard to tell at this point if the push is a good thing or a bad sign. The next unnecessary Pirates of the Caribbean movie will take its place for Memorial Day weekend, but now Episode VIII will share an opening with Spielberg’s hugely anticipated Ready Player One. It’s not like Star Wars will have to worry about attracting an audience at this point, but opening opposite a Spielbergian sci-fi blockbuster is a lot different than opening opposite Sisters (Episode VII’s biggest competition). Unless the postponement was absolutely necessary, this seems like a damaging move.
But there’s an upside here, too. A pretty major one. Opening on a holiday weekend usually gives a boost to a movie, but Star Wars: The Force Awakens had the huge benefit of opening not during a long weekend, but over the long winter holidays. A huge amount of its record-breaking revenue was due to repeat viewings. How many people do you know who have seen the movie three or four or five times? Yes, you need an amazing movie for that kind of viewership, but kids off of school and adults with a week or more off of work is also going to help tremendously. So maybe they’re banking on Ready Player One being stiff competition for a weekend, and making up the difference over Christmas and New Years.
In the meantime, we still have Rogue One coming our way December 16th of this year.