Tuesday, May 7, 2019

Disney Announces Release Dates For 'Star Wars' Films In 2022, 2024, And 2026

By: Dominic Jones

We finally have our first real look at the future of Star Wars on the silver screen beyond this December's Star Wars: The Rise Of Skywalker.  Today, in a press release covering Disney release date shake-ups following the closure of the sale of 20th Century Fox, the company announced that the next three Star Wars films will be released in 2022, 2024, and 2026.  The films will all be released in December (16th, 20th, and 18th, respectively).  No other details about the films were revealed.

Disney also announced that the fifth Indiana Jones film will be released on July 9th, 2021.  The film had previously been announced to be released a year earlier on July 10th, 2020 with Harrison Ford returning to star and Steven Spielberg returning to direct.  It seems safe to assume that the only thing that has changed there is the release date. Meanwhile, in the years where Star Wars films aren't being released the coveted December slot will go the Avatar franchise, with sequels to the 2009 film coming out in 2021, 2023, 2025, and 2027.

That's not to say there won't be any Star Wars content released between 2019 and 2022. There are still several projects coming out between then, most of them will just be on the small screen.  2020 will see the return of the animated series Star Wars: The Clone Wars, with the seventh season debuting on the new streaming service Disney+.  The following year, 2021 will also see a high profile release on Disney+ with a prequel series to Rogue One focused on Cassian Andor (the series will see Diego Luna and Alan Tudyk reprising their roles from the film as Andor and K-2SO, respectively). Plus, there's no reason not think a second season of The Mandalorian (the first season will be available when Disney+ launches on November 12th, 2019) could be released prior to the 2022 Star Wars film.  And all that's without even mentioning the ongoing Disney Channel animated series Star Wars Resistance, which likely air several more seasons over the upcoming break.

The decision to shake-up the scheduling pattern on which Star Wars films had been released since 2015 is no real surprise. Last month, just before to Star Wars Celebration, Disney CEO Bob Iger stated in an interview that we would see a "short hiatus" in the release of theatrical Star Wars films, which we now can take to mean three years.  This decision seems to be the unfortunate side-effect of Solo: A Star Wars Story failing to make back it's budget at the box office last year.  Prior to that, the assumption had been that Lucasfilm/Disney would want to release two Star Wars films a year (with lots of rumors about what was supposed to come next). Now the studio seems to have moved in the opposite direction, going with one movie every two years.

There were a multitude of issues that led to Solo's disappointing returns, not the least of which was the decision to release the film in May, just six months after the release of The Last Jedi.  The move looked to be a test to see how audiences would respond to two Star Wars movies so close together. The response from audiences, who were used to at least a year (if not three) in between Star Wars films, was clearly a negative.  This wasn't the only issue with Solo (a troubled production, poor marketing, being released in the same window as four other hotly anticipated sequels, and a general antipathy towards a Han Solo origin story all contributed as well), but it seems to be the one that will have the biggest impact going forward.

There is also the question of what these new movies will be.  The Disney press release, which lists them only as "UNTITLED STAR WARS", offers no real clues.  We do know, however, that prior to the release of Solo (and everything that came with it), Lucasfilm had announced two new trilogies of films: one from The Last Jedi writer/director Rian Johnson, and one from Game of Thrones showrunners David Benioff and D.B. Weiss.  Now, with only three Star Wars release dates on the schedule in the next eight years, it's hard to imagine both projects going forward as initially planned.

Johnson, for his part, said last month that he was about to begin work on his Star Wars films, now that he had completed his upcoming film Knives Out.  And Lucasfilm president Kathleen Kennedy referenced both Johnson and Benioff and Weiss during interviews back at Star Wars Celebration Chicago.  She told Entertainment Weekly, "As they finish Game of Thrones, they’re going to segue into Star Wars. They’re working very closely with Rian."

Neither trilogy seems to be very far along as of yet, with their main creatives having spent the past two years focused on other projects, so if Disney wanted to cancel one of them all together they probably could without much issue.  There is also the chance that one of them could be reworked into another form, such as live action series for Disney+ (which is where the studio seems to be focusing a lot of its energy these days).  Benioff, Weiss, and Johnson all have television experience (Johnson directed three episodes of Breaking Bad, including the third to last episode "Ozymandias"), so that could be a way of keeping them on board without altering the film release schedule.

As announcements often do, this one raises more questions than it answers about what exactly the future of Star Wars will be on the silver screen.  If nothing else, we now know when we can expect to see the galaxy far, far away again (in theaters) following The Rise Of Skywalker.  While the three year wait for 2022 may seem long, it's worth remembering that this is what constitutes a hiatus now.  In previous generations this was a typical break between movies, and back then there were only three films every 15 years (or so).  And there weren't live action or animated TV series being released every year in between.  So while the break may feel long, it's worth remembering that we are still living through the best time to be a Star Wars fan.

Follow The Star Wars Underworld on Twitter @TheSWU for more updates about this story and other breaking Star Wars news.


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