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Is Interest In Star Wars Waning?

Every now and then I check the number of views for The Rise of Skywalker teaser trailer on YouTube. And something interesting can be observed. As of now (nearing end of June 2019) the teaser has almost 29 million views on the official YouTube Star Wars Channel. However, the official first teaser for The Last Jedi is at 44 million views. Now, the TLJ teaser has been online for much longer, so it’s to be expected to have more views. But 15 million more views? Who watches teasers once first trailers are available? So how many of these 44 million views for the The Last Jedi teaser are from the time it was first released? Is it possible that interest for The Rise of Skywalker is so much smaller than for The Last Jedi? So I went to Google Trends and looked at how various Star Wars related searches have been trending worldwide on Google for the past five years, and then I compared that with other franchises. The results may spell trouble for The Rise of Skywalker. Click through for some charts and an analysis!

UPDATE: I added a few more interesting charts, including a comparison with Revenge of the Sith!

Rey in The Last Jedi

Google Trends is this nifty tool that allows you to see what is trending on Google, how popularity of things like “Star Wars” change over time, at least when it comes to Google Search.

Movie studios use these trends, not just on Google, but social media etc. to predict box office.

So how does Star Wars fare? And especially, how does The Rise of Skywalker fare? If Google Trends is to be believed then there may not be a Rise, but rather a Fall come December. But let’s look at the various graphs I prepared and then we’ll discuss what it could mean, if anything at all. For this I examined worldwide trends, so not just the USA, since Star Wars is a global movie franchise. I looked back 5 years, this includes all of the Disney era movies.

Star Wars Google Trends

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These Google Trends graphs are easy to understand. The maximum is 100, whenever a line reaches “100” it means this was the period where the search term reached its maximum popularity/interest on Google, i.e. people searched for it more than before or after.

It may be no surprise that interest in TLJ peaked around its release date. But what is of much more importance here is the comparison of the popularity when the first teaser was revealed. Please click the graphic to see it better, but TROS only reaches about 50% of the popularity TLJ had on Google when its first teaser/title were revealed. This more or less aligns with the much lower number of views for the teaser on YouTube, 29 million for TROS vs. 44 million for TLJ. Or 34% fewer views.

Ok, now that we know how these graphs work, let’s look at a lot more of them, I will only discuss each graph briefly, since they are pretty much self-explanatory.  So you won’t have to read all that much, I strongly encourage you to study the graphs, however!

Next up is a comparison between Solo and The Rise of Skywalker:

Star Wars Google Trends

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TROS is only slightly more popular on Google than Solo when its first teaser was revealed. That cannot be good.

Now let’s compare Rogue One and The Rise of Skywalker:

Star Wars Google Trends

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TROS has maybe 1/2 of the popularity on Google that Rogue One had when its first teaser was released.

And now The Force Awakens vs The Rise of Skywalker:

Star Wars Google Trends

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TROS has maybe 1/4th of the popularity on Google than TFA had when the teaser was first released.

Next up is the chart for The Force Awakens (red line), The Last Jedi (yellow line) and The Rise of Skywalker (blue line), to show you how popularity evolved on Google.

Star Wars Google Trends

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It’s interesting that both TFA (red line) and TLJ (yellow line) were trending about as much on Google Search when the first proper trailer was released, but overall TLJ only ever reached 75% of TFAs popularity on Google. TROS (blue line) is barely visible here, but we only have the teaser so far.

Next, I wanted to look how The Mandalorian, Star Wars Rebels, Star Wars Resistance and The Rise of Skywalker compare, three tv shows and a saga movie:

Star Wars Google Trends

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The yellow line stands for Star Wars Rebels, the red line is The Mandalorian, the green line (very flat) is Star Wars Resistance and the blue line is once more The Rise of Skywalker.

It’s either great for Rebels or bad for TROS, that Rebels, when it was on air, was very often trending more on Google than TROS is trending now. The Mandalorian reaches about 3/4 of the popularity of TROS, both teasers were revealed on the same day. That too is either great for the show or bad for TROS. Resistance is mostly flatlining, ratings for the show are abysmal, streaming numbers however are unknown. It barely ever trended on Google.

Let’s look at the competition! Next up is a comparison between Avengers Infinity War, Avengers Endgame, Captain Marvel, The Last Jedi and The Force Awakens (comparing TROS here makes no sense):

Google Trends Star Wars

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The purple line is TFA, the green line is TLJ, the blue line is Avengers Infinity War, the yellow line is Captain Marvel and the red line is Avengers Endgame.

Now trending on Google doesn’t necessarily mean that you are extremely popular, it just means people search for something. That being said, the last two Avenger movies were clearly much more tending on Google than any of the big Star Wars  movies. And Captain Marvel matches TFA and even trended somewhat more. TFA doesn’t even reach half the popularity of Endgame on Google. Now Endgame was the end of an era, TFA was the beginning of something new. Infinity War made as much money as TFA worldwide at the box office, Endgame however, is outperforming TFA by quite a bit worldwide (roughly 30% more). Captain Marvel was/is a controversial characters and that she trended so much doesn’t mean that box office is that high.

Next up I wanted to see how “Star Wars” and “Marvel” compare. Marvel can be anything, the movies, the comics, just as “Star Wars” can be anything, so I think it’s a fair comparison:

Google Trends Star Wars

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As you can see Star Wars (the blue line) was, for a long time, more popular than Marvel (the red line), but ever since early 2018 the Marvel peaks (i.e. movie releases) rise high above the Star Wars basic level. But when Star Wars was trending, it was REALLY trending, Marvel doesn’t come close here. This shows that Star Wars has or had potential.

Next, I was interested in seeing how Forces of Destiny and Galaxy of Adventures compare. I looked at both YouTube series in more detail in previous articles and views for GoA are usually a lot lower than for the FoD episodes. Let’s see if we can also see that in search trends on Google:

Google Trends Star Wars

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And yes, GoA (the red line) isn’t trending even close to FoD (blue line). Now the question is if a Galaxy of Adventures branded toyline makes all that much sense when few people ever search for it on Google and seem to have not so much interest.

Then I wanted to know how something like Aquaman compares to The Rise of Skywalker:

Google Trends Star Wars

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It seems TROS is trending about as much as Aquaman did when its first trailer was released. I suppose Disney expects something more here.

Finally, I looked at how various characters have been trending on Google. That could be fun…

Google Trends Star Wars

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What can we see? The Marvel characters are always trending somewhat on Google, then they peak when something interesting gets released (a movie). The Star Wars characters are flatlining between movies, however. And Kylo Ren is always trending more than Luke Skywalker. It seems Kylo has his fans!

Now it must be mentioned that both Captain America and Iron Man also have comics, so it is to be expected that there is always some level of interest in them. But even so, you can see that when new movies are released they trend more on Google than Luke or Kylo. Especially after TFA.

And my final graph for tonight:

Google Trends Star Wars

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What can we see? Luke and Rey trend about the same on Google, barely any difference, Kylo peaks when the other characters peak, but he’s clearly trending a lot more on Google. And even if you squint you can’t really see Finn ever trending on Google. It seems no one is really all that much interested in him. And as a comparison I added Iron Man (purple line), you can see that every now and then the Star Wars Characters can trend more than him for a short while, only to return to nothing between movies. Iron Man’s Endgame peak is enormous.

UPDATE: I think the following two charts are also of interest. First, it was requested that I also compare The Clone Wars with the other shows. So first up is TCW!

Star Wars Google Trends

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We can see that at the time of the theatrical release of the movie TCW had its peak in Google as a trending search term. After that the trend continously shifted downwards, which correlates with somewhat declining tv ratings for the show. Rebels more or less matches TCW on Google, Rebels was trending somewhat more than later seasons of TCW for its first few seasons, but overall the show also trended less each year. TV ratings for Rebels were only a fraction of TCW’s, however, maybe 1/4 – 1/3 or so of the ratings TCW had. But by then streaming was much more of a factor, we don’t know streaming numbers, of course. But when you disregard the huge spike for the movie, we can say that TCW and Rebels trended about the same on Google, but with TCW trending somewhat more, especially early on.
Things are very different for Resistance though, this show is barely registering here. This should be cause for concern for Disney, since Resistance is set in the ST time period, featuring ST characters, whereas both TCW and Rebels were set in the Lucas era of Star Wars, the prequel and the OT period, respectively.

And then an all new graph that compares Revenge of the Sith with all the Disney era movies (except for The Rise of Skywalker). Google’s data goes back all they way until 2004, which made it possible to include the last of the prequel movies here!

Star Wars Google Trends

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It may surprise you that all the way back in 2005 ROTS trended about as much (slightly less so) on Google than TFA did 10 years later (Google refined their data gathering method in 2016 however, and numbers after that are somewhat more accurate than before). Now ROTS had a much, much lower box office, but it seems people were searching for the movie a lot in 2005, it was the end of an era, the last Star Wars movie ever perhaps, or so we thought. However, social networks like Twitter, Facebook and also YouTube weren’t really a thing back then, so maybe a higher percentage of people than today used Google to search for info about the movie, please consider this. But then again, the number of internet users has increased a lot since 2004. So that ROTS in 2005 was trending about as much as TFA in 2015 is still somewhat of a surprise perhaps.

What we can also once more see here is how interest in each subsequent Disney era movie on Google is declining, the movies trend less and less, with Solo trending only somewhat around its time of release. This could be seen as an overall decline in interest.

Now people also discuss movies these days on Facebook and Twitter or search for them there, but Google is the #1 ranked website for traffic and global engagement in the world, Facebook is only at #3 here and Twitter only #11. So Google is the biggest player here and certainly representative of how things trend on Twitter, Facebook or YouTube worldwide.

Disney should be concerned, I think. Maybe there’s no such thing as Star Wars fatigue, but it seems the movies generate less and less interest each year online.

So, now that we looked at so many charts what can we say?

We can say that The Rise of Skywalker is barely trending on Google, it’s trending less than The Force Awakens, The Last Jedi and Rogue One when their first teasers were released. The Rise of Skywalker is barely trending more than Solo at the time of its first teaser.

Now Google Trends are just that, trends. But it certainly reflects overall popularity or at least how much something is on the minds of people.

Until tonight I was absolutely sure that The Rise of Skywalker would be a huge box office hit, beating The Last Jedi, easily.

But if we look at the Google Trends we see that interest in The Rise of Skywalker seems to be rather weak. When we also take the much fewer views for the teaser trailer in consideration we might come to the conclusion that The Rise of Skywalker might be in serious trouble.

It’s apparent Disney needs to do something, soon. The marketing engine will have to work extra hard. Maybe public interest will rise with more trailers. But even so, the level of interest in The Rise of Skywalker, when compared with the other movies, except for Solo, is undoubtedtly at an alltime low for a saga movie. Even Rogue One trended more than The Rise of Skywalker.

And when we look at the competition we have to see that the recent Marvel movies trend a lot more than anything Star Wars has released since The Force Awakens. The Star Wars movies and characters trend less and less on Google with each year, while the Marvel movies seem to be trending more and more.

Now, we should not put too much importance on Google Trends, but they nevertheless reflect what people are searching for on Google and therefore is certainly to some degree a reflection of what is currently popular or discussed and generally a topic of interest. And here the various Star Wars movies seem to be struggling, especially compared with the MCU. And it’s not just the MCU. Aquaman was trending as much as TFA when his movie was released. And we speak of a DC character that was usually made fun of. Wonder Woman was even trending somewhat more than TFA when her movie was released (always compared to TFA’s time of release). Jumanji trended as much as TLJ when the movie was released. Now The Last Jedi made $400 million more worldwide, but worldwide search trends saw both movies about even.

So after looking at all these trends I am not so sure anymore The Rise of Skywalker will be the guaranteed box office hit I thought it would be. I find it alarming that the teaser on YouTube has 34% fewer views than TLJ’s teaser and that it’s barely registering on Google, much less so than any previous Star Wars movie, with only Solo trending even less when its teaser was first shown.

With so many people saying in the comments and social media that they have little interest in seeing The Rise of Skywalker, the question remains if that is an actual trend and if The Rise of Skywalker might seriously underperform.

I will follow the Google Trends and we will perhaps know more when the first proper trailer is released, with Disney’s marketing engine running at full speed. As of now TROS might turn out to be a huge financial disappointment for Disney if the lack of popularity on Google is correlated with box office results.

What do you think? Do you think Google Trends mean little? Do you think Google Trends reflect what fans think? Do you believe The Rise of Skywalker might actually be in trouble or do you think the movie will just do fine come December and that Disney’s marketing might will get people to buy tickets en masse after all?

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