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Solo: A Star Wars Box Office Story

The box office estimates for the Solo Memorial Day opening weekend are in. And they are not pretty. According to Boxoffice Mojo Solo had a 3-day opening weekend of $84.7 million and a 4-day opening weekend of $103 million. Which means Solo is the first live action Star Wars movie ever in danger of becoming a serious flop. What does that mean? What are the reasons? Click through for a discussion!

Solo box office


So far, Disney and Lucasfilm had a good ride. Three very successful movies are under their belt.

  • TFA made $936 million at the domestic box office.
  • RO earned almost $533 million.
  • The Last Jedi made $620 million.

The Lucas era movies are also veritable box office successes, with only Attack of the Clones not clinching the number 1 title for the whole year at the box office, it was beat by Spider-Man and LOTR: The Two Towers, but it still was the number 3 movie and made a profit.

So far, Star Wars seemed to be unbeatable, a beloved pop culture juggernaut at the box office.

That all might change, probably will change with Solo. To put it into perspective a quick list of the 3-day opening weekend numbers for the Disney Star Wars movies:

  • The Force Awakens: $248 million
  • Rogue One: $155 million
  • The Last Jedi: $220 million
  • Solo: a little less than $85 million (estimate)

Global box office is not very good either. The three previous Star Wars movies all made something between 49%-54% of their money outside of North America, which is already a very low number for a modern blockbuster franchise, some of the successful movies make 60% or even 70% outside of North America. As of now, Solo’s foreign box office percentage is slighly less than 39% with only Japan still opening, all the major markets already show the movie. It flopped pretty much everywhere. In China, even in Germany, a major Star Wars market, Solo only sold about 50% of the tickets Rogue One managed to sell on its opening weekend. This is a global phenomenon.

These are just the basic numbers. The plain facts.

So what went wrong?

I have some theories.

  1. From the get go even Star Wars fans said that Solo is a movie we don’t need, that the origin of Han Solo doesn’t need further exploration and therefore the announcement of the movie was met with a lukewarm reception – therefore people just didn’t have as much interest to see the movie in theaters and stayed at home.
  2. Then we had The Last Jedi. Not to open discussions about it once more, but even the most diehard TLJ fans will hopefully agree that the movie is somewhat divisive and that at least a non trivial percentage of fans was quite disappointed and maybe even angry. You read about a boycott movement in so many places, entire YouTube channels are dedicated to this and while it is completely unknown how big this movement is, or if it even made a dent at all, it does exist. And maybe the disappointed Star Wars fans who hated The Last Jedi chose Solo as their vehicle to make a statement, and stayed at home.
  3. Star Wars fatigue. I personally don’t really believe in Star Wars fatigue per se. But it can be argued that the time window between the release of The Last Jedi and Solo was simply too short. Maybe a December release would have been the wiser choice here. Star Wars is not the MCU which can release 3 or maybe even 4 movies in a year in quick succession. Star Wars needs to be an event, needs to be special and maybe Solo didn’t feel like that special event, not so shortly after The Last Jedi.
  4. General audiences are confused about the shifting timelines for the Star Wars movies. Han Solo died in The Force Awakens, wait, he lives again? Now we get to see a movie that is set, what, 40 years before The Force Awakens? The MCU movies are all set in the same timeline with various movies building upon each other and leading to big events. Lucasfilm has a different strategy, they have trilogy movies and then more or less completely unrelated stand alone movies set in different time periods even. Maybe this is too confusing for some. I remember people asking why and how Rogue One is not the sequel to The Force Awakens. Perhaps general audiences are not that much invested in completely unrelated movies that don’t really connect.
  5. Lucasfilm employees or people who work for Lucasfilm in some capacity made some less than flattering remarks about some Star Wars fans after The Last Jedi. Maybe this didn’t go down so well with a lot of the fans and they decided to send a message to Lucasfilm.

Now, these are all just my thoughts, trying to make sense of Solo’s low box office. Because word of mouth is mostly ok, positive, most people who actually saw the movie seem to enjoy it a lot. It is, according to many, the most fun Disney Star Wars movie yet. But as things are now, it might not break even. The inflated production costs make sure of that. Solo has to make at least $700 million worldwide to break even. This seems very unlikely.

What will happen?

Disney chief of distribution David Hollis says this: “We have a lot of work to do in trying to understand this. We are all over it and will spend a lot of time digging into why things happened the way they did in various markets. We have a year and a half before Episode IX comes out.”

It sounds as if Disney has no real clue yet why Solo failed at the box office. Whereas most fans will probably come up with one or two good reasons right away.

So, what do you think? What do you think is the reason for Solo’s bad performance at the box office?

And do you think Lucasfilm might change their strategy now? Rethink their overall plans for the franchise? Or do you think things will go on like before and only if something similar happened to Episode IX there would be massive changes at Lucasfilm? Will we still get a Boba Fett movie? An Obi-Wan movie? So many things hinge on the success of the movies. Hasbro, the Disney streaming channel and even the new Star Wars theme parks.

My opinion: Lucasfilm should stop dismissing fan criticism, should stop painting the fans who criticize The Last Jedi and Disney Star Wars in general in a wrong light, neither are the fans (the very vast majority) afraid of women (JJ Abrams), nor did dames ruin a caveman like debilitating obsession (Pablo Hidalgo), nor do average out of shape white guys shake in horror because Han gave the Falcon to a girl (Freddie Prinze Jr.). Insulting fans never helps. Fans might not like that. Fans might choose not do buy a ticket to your movie.

It’s somewhat of a shame that Solo suffers from various negative effects, it might send the wrong message to Disney. If Solo fails then not because it’s a bad movie, it might fail for reasons entirely outside of its control, which have nothing directly to do with the quality of the movie itself.

In the end, I believe the very fact that even most fans said that Solo is not really needed, combined with the backlash created by The Last Jedi is mostly responsible for the low box office. I believe Lucasfilm should listen more to its fans, the alarm bells should have rung when the announcement of Solo was not met with enthusiasm, what convinced Lucasfilm in the first place that we need a Solo origin movie? And most of all, Lucasfilm should not have insulted its fans after the controversy surrounding The Last Jedi.

Do you agree? Or do you think this is wrong and the reasons lie elsewhere? Leave your comment! And always remember, keep it civil!

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