Long Range Tracking: ‘Solo: A Star Wars Story’

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For the first time since Revenge of the Sith in 2005, a new Star Wars movie will open in May — just in time for Memorial Day weekend, which can often be a very lucrative time for the film industry as schools begin their summer break. In fact, Solo‘s release date will mark the exact 41st anniversary of the original Star Wars: A New Hope‘s theatrical release on May 25, 1977.

Read on for a detailed analysis of what to expect from Solo: A Star Wars Story. Boxoffice’s first official tracking projections for the film, plus other updates, can be found in the chart below.

The Disney-Star Wars Era So Far…

The Star Wars franchise has prospered about as well as anyone could have imagined since the Disney ownership era began five and a half years ago. Kathleen Kennedy has successfully led Lucasfilm and the entertainment industry’s top tier brand name through the course of three films thus far, amassing nearly $2.1 billion in North America and over $4.45 billion worldwide.

That’s not even counting ancillary revenue streams like home video/streaming sales, merchandising, novelizations, and the acclaimed Star Wars Rebels animated series that just wrapped up a four-season run through the Mouse House’s television arm.

Drama!

The elephant in the room when it comes to any early analysis on the forthcoming Solo is inevitably the film’s highly publicized directorial shake-up last summer. To be fair, though, Rogue One endured its own version of behind-the-scenes drama, prematurely spooking fans but ultimately turning out to be a hugely successful and well-received blockbuster.

The truth is that very few films in the entire franchise have ever escaped some sort of production turmoil (whether perceived or genuine) that spawned unnecessary rumor-mongering and panic among die hard fans (the original 1999-2005 prequels being the only true exceptions to this trend).

Yet, fans still turn out in droves every time. That’s the power of the Star Wars mythos: no matter how much criticism it engenders, fairly or unfairly, fans and casual audiences consistently return to the series because of its endearing characters and captivating storytelling.

Solo v. The Competition

With that said, from an objective point of view, Solo doesn’t have a some of the key advantages the recent films have enjoyed at the box office. Moving away from a Christmas release could easily shorten the film’s legs as it opens in a very competitive summer window. Releasing nearly one month after Avengers: Infinity War shouldn’t make that Marvel title a major concern (Disney was wise to distance the two films by recently moving the Marvel epic up one week).

However, Deadpool 2’s second weekend — if it generates positive word of mouth — will be aiming for some of the target older male audience that drives Star Wars.

On the other side of the fence, The Incredibles 2 is poised to be the animated event of summer (if not 2018), and that Pixar title drops in Solo‘s fourth weekend. Kiddies that often dominate the later-week runs of Star Wars flicks may be divided between Solo and Pixar’s long-awaited sequel, although there may still be room for co-existence between these films if word of mouth swings largely positive.

Star Wars v. Itself

Perhaps the most important factor will be the reality that Solo opens just five months after The Last Jedi. That’s an incredibly quick turnaround for a franchise that has already pushed out three huge earners over the course of three straight years. Many will argue that Star Wars is an exception to the rule that fatigue strikes all franchises, but this will be the series’ first legitimate test of that.

Additionally, the most recent Episode VIII stirred some of the most widely polarizing fan responses to the franchise since the initial release days of Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi. Can you, like Mark Hamill and Rian Johnson, imagine what Twitter’s reaction would have been to the now-heralded final act of Empire had social media existed in the 1980s?

To that point, it wouldn’t be surprising for those highly opinionated fans to feel a bit of fatigue toward the franchise in a summer that looks to be jam-packed with potential blockbusters and with a prequel story about a character whose long-term fate is already known to anyone not living under a rock. That’s a key factor that Rogue One itself avoided by focusing on a cast of new and unknown characters.

Not having the euphoric buzz from The Force Awakens leading into this anthology film, as was the case with Rogue, is another important element to keep in mind.

The Big Picture for Star Wars and Solo

Expectations should reasonably be kept in check more than they have been for the franchise in recent years, but there is every hope that director Ron Howard has stepped in and completed a project that will entertain audiences as Star Wars has always done even at its “lowest” points. The barometer for success is not the $532 million domestic gross of Rogue One, and it’s important to ignore those kinds of short-sighted comparisons in the coming months.

Word of mouth and reviews, as always, will be crucial to the long term success of Solo. For now, a domestic gross anywhere between $350-475 million looks most likely. Early social media buzz and trailer reactions around this film suggest the franchise may be due for a bit of a rest — if only in relative terms to Star Wars‘ typical otherworldly numbers — before December 2019’s trilogy-capping Episode IX arrives with a renewed sense of anticipation behind it.

Still, none of this is meant to cast a shadow over the potential of Solo. Millions of fans and families still adore this series, and Han Solo remains one of the franchise’s most popular characters by far. Harrison Ford will surely be missed in the role, but many are excited to see Alden Ehrenreich’s youthful and charismatic interpretation, not to mention Donald Glover’s young Lando, alongside franchise newcomers Woody Harrelson and Game of Thrones‘ Emilia Clarke.

This franchise has always served as an all-too-relevant parable for hope triumphing over despair, while simultaneously serving as fun, escapist fare built for all ages. If the efforts thus far of Disney, Lucasfilm, Kathleen Kennedy, and the entire Star Wars team are any indication, it will be the fans who embrace such a philosophy that Solo will best appeal to.

8-Week Tracking:

Release Date Title 3-Day Wide Opening % Chg from Last Week Domestic Total % Chg from Last Week Estimated Location Count Distributor
4/6/2018 Blockers $16,000,000 10% $54,000,000 15% 3,300 Universal
4/6/2018 Chappaquiddick $3,500,000 $7,000,000 1,500 Entertainment Studios
4/6/2018 The Miracle Season $3,500,000 $10,000,000 1,700 LD Entertainment
4/6/2018 A Quiet Place $27,500,000 6% $85,000,000 6% 3,200 Paramount
4/13/2018 Rampage $31,000,000 15% $72,000,000 11% 3,700 Warner Bros. / New Line
4/13/2018 Sgt. Stubby: An American Hero n/a n/a n/a Fun Academy
4/13/2018 Truth or Dare $15,000,000 $30,000,000 3,100 Universal
4/20/2018 I Feel Pretty $20,000,000 -5% $67,000,000 -4% STXfilms
4/20/2018 Super Troopers 2 $5,000,000 $9,000,000 Fox Searchlight
4/20/2018 Traffik $3,500,000 $8,750,000 Lionsgate / Summit
4/27/2018 Avengers: Infinity War $215,000,000 $538,000,000 Disney
5/4/2018 Bad Samaritan n/a n/a Electric Entertainment
5/4/2018 Overboard $14,000,000 $39,000,000 Lionsgate / Pantelion
5/4/2018 Tully n/a n/a Focus Features
5/11/2018 Breaking In $14,000,000 $37,500,000 Universal
5/11/2018 Life of the Party $21,000,000 $54,000,000 Warner Bros. / New Line
5/18/2018 Book Club $6,000,000 $19,000,000 Paramount
5/18/2018 Deadpool 2 $100,000,000 $242,000,000 Fox
5/18/2018 Show Dogs $8,000,000 $25,000,000 Open Road
5/25/2018 Solo: A Star Wars Story $150,000,000 NEW $390,000,000 NEW Disney

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