Note: This article originally ran on Furious Fanboys on July 1, 2017. As that site is currently dead it’s being mirrored here.
With the firing of the Han Solo directors and the hiring of Ron Howard, you’re hearing a lot of people predicting that the movie will be delayed until December once again. There are actually a couple of reasons why this may not happen, beginning with Ron Howard himself.
Ron Howard has been making movies for more than thirty-five years and is one of the fastest and best in Hollywood at it. In the 90s it wasn’t uncommon to see him direct and release a movie yearly. That’s one of the reasons why Lucasfilm brought him on. With 75% of a movie filmed and with eleven months left, he has more than enough time to make the May release date.
The other reason has to do with money. While December has been good for Star Wars, moving the franchise to the end of May is better for the Walt Disney Company as a whole. With Star Wars ending a May that Marvel kicked off, Disney would potentially have the box office momentum to be the #1 movie at the box office all summer long from May through July in both 2018 and 2018 using new releases from all of their studios to maintain that. This is a huge bragging point to Disney’s shareholders and it’s also Iger’s last two years as CEO, so that’s a huge high to go out on.
When Disney announced that Episode IX would release in May of 2019, making it the second of their Star Wars movies releasing in the summer after Han Solo, many people became confused. Why would Disney release an Avengers movie and a Star Wars movie in the same month two years in a row? It’s actually pretty simple if people took the time to look at a calendar and researched the box office history of Marvel movies.
With the exception of the first Avengers in 2012, which stayed at #1 in its fourth week, most Marvel Studios films drop out of the #1 spot by their third week. Disney owns Marvel and they’re well aware of this. By releasing a Marvel film in their traditional first weekend of May they’ll be #1 for the first three weeks of the month. Then right at the end of the month, in the Memorial Day weekend, Disney unleashes a Star Wars movie securing both the #1 and #2 spots at the box office and potentially maintaining the #1 box office spot for nearly two months. That’s a huge thing for Disney to brag about.
Looking at both Decembers, it actually works against Disney to release Star Wars up against their big films due to the close release dates. In 2018 they have Mary Poppins Returns scheduled for Christmas Day. Thats less than two weeks after when they would have released a Star Wars movie. And Star Wars fans may be aghast at this revelation, but to the Walt Disney Company, the Mary Poppins sequel is one of their most important releases in the last couple of decades. It’s a sequel to Walt Disney’s 1964 crowning achievement. Walt would pass away two years after the original Mary Poppins, so that movie stands as one of his greatest achievements on the big screen. As it shares some crossover in the family audience of Star Wars, Disney wouldn’t want the two to cannibalize each other at the box office. The movie is such a big deal for Disney, as a 2018 release, they’re already beginning to hype up the movie with a recent Entertainment Weekly cover.
December 2019 is even worse for Star Wars. Frozen 2 has been set for the last weekend of November, and Disney has positioned it there so it can soar across the December box office and leave everything else in its wake. Like with Mary Poppins, they don’t want to release a Star Wars movie (especially a major one like Episode IX) two weeks after Frozen 2 just so the family audience wouldn’t be there for Star Wars.
Going back to Marvel, that is also why Disney has wanted Star Wars at the end of May since The Force Awakens. Before JJ Abrams needed more time to remake A New Hope, the movie was internally scheduled for May 22, 2015. Disney moved Tomorrowland into that date when they had to push Star Wars to December. Before they needed more time to polish up and finish the script for The Last Jedi, it was officially scheduled to release on May 26, 2017. Just one day after the actual 40th anniversary of Star Wars.
Ever since the Lucasfilm purchase Disney saw huge summer box office dollar signs for the company as a whole if they could kick off May with Marvel and then have Star Wars rekindle the momentum into June after Marvel fell out of #1. Aside from the tradition of having Star Wars in May, that’s the real reason they want to move the movies back and why they have absolutely no problem with Avengers and Star Wars in the same month.