Star Wars: The Last JediÂ debuts on Netflix Instant today, just over seven months after its theatrical opening weekend and just as a bunch of trolls have gamed the Internet by announcing their intentions to, uh, remakeÂ The Last JediÂ in a way that pleases them. I wouldn’t pay these folks much mind, as A) you can safely ignore folks, and B) blogging about them, even in jest, gives them the media credibility they so desire. But for the record, Rian Johnson’sÂ The Last JediÂ is arguably the bestÂ Star WarsÂ movie sinceÂ The Empire Strikes Back. And whatever fate awaitsÂ Star Wars 9Â in December of 2019, the biggest challenge won’t be the receptions of thisÂ Star WarsÂ movie orÂ Solo: A Star Wars Story.
Even with mixed-positive reviews and generally pleasant audience reactions,Â Solo: A Star Wars StoryÂ has finished its first month in theaters with $203 million domestic and $355m worldwide. Had the film come in closer to whatever it was supposed to cost before the director swap and reshoots sent its budget skyrocketing (probably closer to $160m than $250m), that would be a disappointing but not disastrous total, about par withÂ Mad Max: Fury Road.Â And that it’ll earn $205-$210m domestic merely means that it was the overseas rejection that killed it. Had it done even a standard 33/67 split, a $210m domestic/$630m worldwide cume would have been about on par with what perhaps Walt Disney should expect of theseÂ Star WarsÂ stories.
The good news/bad news forÂ SoloÂ regarding theÂ Star WarsÂ franchise is that it bombed because audiences didn’t want to see it, not because they were appalled byÂ The Last JediÂ or because they are now boycottingÂ Star Wars.Â The Last JediÂ still earned rave pre-release reviews, solid opening weekend audience reception and a halfway decent 2.8x multiplier for a $620 million domestic (about the same amount down fromÂ Force Awakens‘ $936m gross as Empire Strikes Back fellÂ fromÂ Star Wars). And the film’s $1.332 billion worldwide cume is still $1.332b. Everyone obsessed about “superhero fatigue” in the summer of 2015 when Marvel’sÂ Avengers: Age of UltronÂ “only” earned $1.405b worldwide. Three years later, Marvel’sÂ Avengers: Infinity WarÂ just crossed $2b worldwide.
At the very least, the 1.5-year gap between Ron Howard’sÂ SoloÂ and J.J. Abrams’Â Star Wars 9Â will circumvent any franchise overload. Moreover, whatever demographics will stay home due to their dissatisfaction withÂ The Last JediÂ will be countered by folks who show up because it’s the third and final chapter in this new trilogy. Whether or not J.J. Abrams is able to make a third flick that makes bothÂ Force AwakensÂ andÂ Last JediÂ fans happy is an open question, but it will still be the ninth (and possibly final) saga in the ongoing Skywalker/Solo story. It would be like like dedicated MCU fans staying home fromÂ Avengers 4Â because they didn’t likeÂ Avengers: Infinity WarÂ orÂ Ant-Man and the Wasp.
Whether it takes the standard 20-25% jump from Last JediÂ (see:Â Return of the JediÂ andÂ Revenge of the Sith),Â audiences will show up because it’s aÂ Star WarsÂ event. At least, they’ll show up once. The biggest “threat” toÂ Star Wars 9‘s final global gross isn’t Star WarsÂ fatigue, fan backlash or any other potentially non-existent variables. It’ll be the sheer amount of big movies opening in November and December of 2019. November alone will see Warner Bros./Time Warner Inc.’sÂ Wonder Woman 1984, Paramount/Viacom Inc.’sÂ Sonic the Hedgehog,Â Annapurna’sÂ James Bond 25,Â Paramount’sÂ TerminatorÂ rebootÂ and Walt Disney’sÂ Frozen 2. And then December will have Walt Disney’sÂ Star Wars 9, Fox’sÂ Death on the Nile, Universal’sÂ Wicked and Sony’sÂ Jumanji 3Â all likely/possibly opening on or aroundÂ Episode 9‘s Dec. 20 release.
Some of those may be delayed (I haven’t heard much aboutÂ WickedÂ since it was announced),. The early November stuff may be played out by Christmas. That’s not factoring the likely schedule changes if Disney or Comcast Corp. buys Fox. But that’s a lot of big movies at the end of 2019. The successes ofÂ Jumanji: Welcome to the JungleÂ andÂ The Greatest ShowmanÂ (and, to a lesser extent,Â Ferdinand), showed Hollywood that it could release other big movies and thrive alongsideÂ Star Wars. A big part ofÂ Last Jedi‘s smaller multiplier (and thus smaller domestic gross) was merely due to having other family-friendly options available during the 2017 holiday season. In 2015,Â Force AwakensÂ was the only game in town for live-action family-friendly thrills.
Not so in 2017, and certainly not so in 2019. Everyone may seeÂ Star Wars 9, but with plenty of other options over the holiday, they are less likely to see it twice or thrice. IfÂ Star Wars 9Â ends up with a gross closer toÂ TheÂ Last JediÂ (orÂ Rogue One)Â thanÂ TheÂ Force Awakens, the critical factor may be that other studios are willing to open their big movies alongside aÂ Star WarsÂ movie. It won’t be because audiences secretly hatedÂ The Last Jedi or becauseÂ SoloÂ exposed a plague ofÂ Star WarsÂ fatigue. It will be becauseÂ Star WarsÂ will no longer be the only game in town, which is an advantage that it has usually had for much of its lifetime.
That’s an advantageÂ Star WarsÂ can no longer count on.Â When you put Spider-ManÂ againstÂ Attack of the ClonesÂ or Jumanji: Welcome to the JungleÂ against Last JediÂ (orÂ SingÂ againstÂ Rogue One), the numbers go down. In 2019,Â Star Wars 9Â may have someÂ Wonder-fullyÂ WickedÂ competition nipping at its heels. SoÂ Star WarsÂ will have to prove, like another big year-end release, that nobody (still) does it better. But in the meantime, the bestÂ Star WarsÂ movie in 38 years is now available on Netflix Instant. It really is the movie of our era, celebrating theÂ idea that it’ll be today’sÂ Star Wars: RebelsÂ orÂ Force AwakensÂ fans,Â not theÂ Empire Strikes BackÂ die-hards of yesterday, who will save us. Oh, and it’s a terrific action-adventure to boot.