He and Chewie have been in tight scrapes before, but nothing like this.
I’ve written repeatedly in the last couple years about how Disney’s release plan for the Star Wars films, at least those after 2015’s relaunch with The Force Awakens, is executed on a consolidated schedule compared to many other blockbuster franchises. In each case, the marketing for the next movie has to wait until the release window for the previous one is fully closed. So Rogue One’s campaign didn’t begin until The Force Awakens was on home video. The Last Jedi’s didn’t start until Rogue One was on home video.
With each movie coming out in December and the home video release generally happening in May, that’s just a seven month window for the marketing to operate within. That’s unusual in today’s marketplace, where IP-driven franchise films routinely have trailers drop a year or more out from release. It keeps the potential for audience confusion and burnout down, though, since the public only has to focus on one Star Wars movie at a time.
Precedent is about to be broken with this May’s release of Solo: A Star Wars Story.
The movie, which just got an official synopsis confirming it’s about how a young Han Solo (Alden Ehrenreich) first meets Chewbacca and Lando Calrissian (Donald Glover), is going to hit theaters just five months after the release of The Last Jedi, sometime around when that movie will be arriving on home video. That means there’s going to be an overlap where The Last Jedi is still in theaters and the marketing for Solo is underway, a situation Disney has to date avoided.
Why is this happening? Disney had a perfect excuse to push the release of Solo to the usual December slot when initial directors Chris Miller and Phil Lord were let go in the middle of principal photography and Ron Howard brought on to finish the film. And, as I mentioned before, there’s a constant worry fans – accustomed to 40 years of Star Wars films arriving three years apart with a decade or more between series – will tire of an overloaded release pattern.
The answer, I think, is the December 2019 release of Star Wars: Episode IX.
While Disney/Lucasfilm has stated it has plenty of Star Wars films planned, including a new trilogy created and overseen by The Last Jedi director Rian Johnson, Episode IX will mark the end of this “Saga” trilogy begun by The Force Awakens. That’s going to be a big deal. And the studio would surely like as much runway to pull out all the stops it can to mark the occasion.
By keeping Solo’s May release date intact, that film’s release cycle can be completely closed before the end of 2018. Disney then can start the Episode IX marketing around Thanksgiving of this year, just like it dropped the first The Force Awakens trailer at that time in 2014, over a year before release.
The reality of Solo intruding on The Last Jedi’s time in the spotlight is also why we haven’t seen much, if any, marketing and publicity for that film outside of a few pictures from the set shared by Howard and comments made by members of the cast, though notably not Ehrenreich. I don’t know how much truth there might be to this blind item report of the film being a disaster that Disney just wants to quickly be done with, but there are bigger factors outside of that contributing to the lack of marketing done to date.
Given that we’re still actively discussing The Last Jedi’s plot points, it will be interesting to see what the reaction is when the first Solo trailer drops, which would have to be some time either later this month or in the first part of February. It *has* to arrive before Valentine’s Day. At that point we’ll have the first time to judge Ehrenreich’s performance and we’ll hopefully get our first look at Glover as Lando, which is the real reason to see the movie. And we’ll go from there. For now, Solo is at a disadvantage as the movie in the way of Episode IX and the massive push awaiting the final chapter in the latest Star Wars Trilogy.
Chris Thilk is a freelance writer and content strategist who lives in the Chicago suburbs.