‘Solo: A Star Wars Story’ came in so low, well under even its lowest projection. The prequel was expected to take in between $130-$150 million in its opening holiday weekend but only earned $101M. And that’s for four days versus the usual three, thanks to Memorial Day in the US. That’s less than ‘Deadpool 2”s three-day opening weekend and WAY less than ‘Avengers: Infinity War’‘s $250M opening. Perhaps the most obvious explanation is that this is the first Disney ‘Star Wars’ movie to open in the summer versus the Christmas season. The prior Disney ‘Star Wars’ flicks have dominated the holidays with less competition. Considering how iffy fans have been about this movie from the start, perhaps it wasn’t a good idea to open in such a crowded market AND less than six months after ‘The Last Jedi’.
There are some that would point to Disney’s other monster franchise, Marvel, and say that those movies come out even closer together. But the argument to be made is that the Marvel movies are different enough from one another that fans don’t feel they are being force-fed the same thing over and over. As one distribution chief ranted, “They’re over-saturating the market with Star Wars, and bleeding the golden goose! We just had The Last Jedi!” Also, the Marvel movies are interconnected. ‘Solo’ and ‘Rogue One’, while tangentially connected to the existing ‘Star Wars’ movies, are essentially prequels that feature stand-alone stories. Some don’t view them as essential.
A rival exec echoed the sentiment, saying:
“I think Disney got caught milking the Star Wars franchise a little too much. Everyone acknowledged the risk of releasing another movie five months after Jedi. They really should have pushed Solo to Christmas.”
Those that have seen it, enjoyed it, giving it four out of five stars and an “A-” CinemaScore. Though that’s a great reaction, it is also lower than the three prior ‘Star Wars’ movies which all earned “A” scores. But hopefully, those that saw it and enjoyed it can bang the drum and encourage others to take a chance on this movie that they may have been on the fence about. It’s also been well-received by critics, boasting a healthy 70% score on Rotten Tomatoes.
Abroad, things also weren’t great. In China, the ‘Star Wars’ brand carries no significance since the original movies never opened there. Disney was able to spark interest with the first new movie, ‘The Force Awakens’, but the audience there didn’t embrace the franchise and every subsequent release has done worse and worse. It’s actually surprising that Disney even opened ‘Solo there, but they did, with little promotion or fanfare. (No one from the cast was sent there to help sell it.) As a result, the film eked out roughly $10M, but that was what was expected. ‘Solo’ also essentially flopped in Korea and even in Great Britain, the film is off to a sluggish start. As it stands, ‘Solo’ made a disappointing $65M overseas.
But it hasn’t opened yet in Japan, where ‘Star Wars’ has a strong fan base. When it opens there, that will help elevate its grosses.
As Disney’s worldwide distribution chief Dave Hollis stated:
“We came into the beginning of the year with this one of the most anticipated films. We gotta spend some time looking at the exits and get a better handle on all the questions.
“We’re in a world where we’re in the same conference rooms planning Marvel movies. We have a Thor and a Black Panther and an Infinity War coming out in November and February and May and each are massively successful. They each do well and people aren’t asking these questions.”
It’s probably a coincidence, but Hollis is departing his position this week.
What went wrong? Fans have various theories. Some don’t like star Alden Ehrenreich because he doesn’t actually look like Harrison Ford. Disney auditioned nearly every white male actor around 25 years-old and to be honest, I doubt fans would have been welcoming to any of them. (Including Ansel Elgort, Dave Franco, Chandler Riggs, Aaron Taylor-Johnson, and Miles Teller.) On the flip side, everyone seems to love Donald Glover’s depiction of young Lando. (Maybe they should have just made ‘Lando: A Star Wars Story’ instead.)
As social media monitor Relish Mix stated:
“Some people really do have an issue with Ehrenreich as the title character, that he doesn’t look like the original Han while Donald Glover as a younger Lando definitely fits…Convo is mixed. We have folks coming out of Thursday screenings saying, ‘The film’s great, Chewie is awesome, Lando really looks like a young Lando should, etc., while others are saying it’s a low point for the series.”
For more in-tune fans, there’s also the hubbub about Phil Lord and Christopher Miller being fired as directors and replaced by Ron Howard. But most movie-goers aren’t that engrossed in behind-the-scenes goings-on. There are also some that are still chapped about the ending of ‘The Last Jedi’. Perhaps the oddest complaint is that the trailers reminded people too much of ‘Blade Runner 2049’… you know, that sci fi movie that came out last year that nobody went to see?
Sadly, the film that ‘Solo’ seems to be faring closest to is ‘Justice League’, which also opened at $101.3M over four days. And that’s considered a flop. But ‘Justice League’ earned 65% of its total gross overseas. ‘Solo’ will not do that.
On the plus side, this is actually Ron Howard’s best opening ever, so there’s a highlight. Also, a $101M opening is actually solid… just not for a Disney ‘Star Wars’ installment.
‘Solo’ has gotten positive reaction and doesn’t have much competition next week, so it’s very likely that it will hang on to the #1 spot. Next week sees the release of comedy ‘Action Point’ starring Johnny Knoxville and suspense drama ‘Adrift’ starring Shailene Woodley and Sam Claflin. On June 8, though, ‘Solo’ may get taken down by ‘Oceans 8’. June 15 should belong to ‘The Incredibles II’ but after that, on June 22, ‘Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom’ is predicted to be this summer’s next smash.
Check back to see if ‘Solo’ can pull up and turn into a bigger hit.