Solo: A Star Wars Story underperformed at the box office on its opening weekend. Initially projected to come in with over $130 million, the movie limped to a four-day opening of $103 million and a three-day total of just $84 million. This led the punditocracy and armchair quarterbacking to determine exactly why this happened. After all, Star Wars is supposed to be a bulletproof franchise where no entry ever flops at the box office, especially following the $1 billion-plus worldwide grosses of The Force Awakens, Rogue One, and The Last Jedi. While we can sit here and argue about whether Solo came out too soon after The Last Jedi or whether the anthology movies are a failed endeavor, some are fretting that Solo’s performance is bad for Star Wars overall. These fears are unfounded.
The first thing to remember is that Star Wars is one of the most valuable brands on the planet. The devotion of its fans is unwavering (everyone who was bummed by the prequels still came back for The Force Awakens), and its plot points are shorthand in the popular culture. Even if someone has never seen a Star Wars movie, they probably will recognize lines like “May The Force be with you,” and Yoda’s unique syntax. It’s ingrained in our culture and the property is recognized worldwide. Additionally, you don’t spend billions of dollars to acquire a property that could fall apart just because one movie underperformed at the box office. If there was a bellwether test, it was The Force Awakens, and that movie was incredibly well received.
The second thing to recognize is that Star Wars is no longer just movies. Because it is a “brand”, it has expanded far past box office receipts. Yes, the poor box office showing for Solo does not bode well for all the Solo merchandise on shelves right now, but because Star Wars is ongoing, it doesn’t really matter. If the Solo stuff doesn’t sell, there will be a new movie next year not to mention a new animated series and a new live-action TV series in the not-too-distant future. Add to that novels and comic books and you have plenty of Star Wars stories ready to feed the fan machine at a constant pace. This isn’t Dark Universe where one flop tanks the entire enterprise; Star Wars can withstand a stumble.
I understand the doomsayers out there wondering if Star Wars has overextended itself or if the public’s interest in the property could be waning, but both options seem like a bit of a stretch. If Star Wars had overextended itself, it would have done so by now. Instead, it keeps expanding, and it’s reached a point where it will only continue to expand. That’s what Disney does with its brands, and the purpose of Star Wars isn’t to create box office hits (although the movies remain the flagship of the brand), but to spin off new IP and new endeavors that people can buy.
To say that interest is “waning” we would need to actually see a continued drop-off. That hasn’t really happened. Star Wars has long surpassed what could be considered a fad, and while The Last Jedi didn’t make quite as much as The Force Awakens, that’s pretty much par for the course when it comes to sequels. There’s been no significant drop-off until Solo, and to assume that all future Star Wars movies, including the highly-anticipated Star Wars: Episode IX will fall prey to lower box office doesn’t appear supported by any data. People are jumping to a conclusion based off one movie’s performance.
It is surprising that Star Wars’ hot streak at the box office was disrupted by Solo, but to start asking, “Is it time to worry about Star Wars?” is premature. If the franchise falls victim to a string of flops and if the TV shows are quickly canceled and if the books stop selling and if people don’t go to the Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge theme park expansion in Disneyland and Disney World and if the toys aren’t flying off the shelf, then we can start talking about whether or not Star Wars’ popularity is fading.
For more on Solo, click on the links below:
- The Collider.com Podcast: Episode 144 – ‘Solo: A Star Wars Story’
- Disney Unlikely to Release ‘Star Wars’ Movies So Close Together Again After ‘Solo’ Disappointment
- How ‘Solo’ Begins the MCU-ification of the ‘Star Wars’ Franchise
- ‘Solo’: Alden Ehrenreich on the Train Sequence, Deleted Scenes, and Flying the Millennium Falcon