The latest Star Wars movie has only been in cinemas for a fortnight, but it is already shaping up as a historic flop.
Solo: A Star Wars Storyis set to be the first film in the beloved canon to lose money after a disastrous start at the box office.
Read more: The actors nearly cast as Han Solo
The film cost at least $327 million to make, and when taking its marketing budget into account, the film is projected to lose up to $100 million, Wall Street analysts told The Hollywood Reporter.
The film opened to good, but not great, reviews, recording a moderate 71 percent at the box office.
Critics spoke well of performances by lead Alden Ehrenreich and Donald Glover.
And it was part of one of the most popular film series of all-time, with its predecessors Rogue One, The Last Jediand The Force Awakens all making more than a billion each.
Not only that, it had the backing of Disney’s enormous marketing and merchandising juggernaut.
So why was Solo a major flop?
Solo started principal photography in January 2017, with 21 Jump Street directors Phil Lord and Christopher Miller at the helm.
But the pair reportedly swerved dramatically off-script, turning the movie into more of an offbeat comedy to the chagrin of Lucasfilm.
In June it was announced Lord and Miller had been fired, with Oscar-winning director Ron Howard brought in to salvage the project.
Howard then set out to do substantial reshoots.
Filming one blockbuster science-fiction movie is expensive enough, but shooting it twice is extraordinarily expensive.
As a result, the film was much more costly than Disney had first budgeted.
As a consequence of the reshoots, Disney was unable to start promoting the movie until much later than usual.
Perhaps also not to step on The Last Jedi‘s toes, the first trailer for Solo wasn’t released until February.
And the reaction on YouTube was largely underwhelming.
The teaser trailer only offered fleeting moments of beloved Star Wars iconography like the Millennium Falcon, Chewbacca or Lando Calrissian.
The teaser still has fewer than 13 million views on YouTube.
By contrast, the trailer for Avengers: Infinity War has 199 million.
It had been more than a decade since the last Star Wars movie, so fans couldn’t wait to see The Force Awakens in 2015.
But Disney made the odd decision to release Solo in May, only a few months after The Last Jedi came out.
Even before the film was released, pundits were speculating that viewers would not be in a rush to see another Star Wars film so soon.
And they were correct. Solo has to date sold fewer tickets worldwide so far than The Force Awakens made in its opening weekend in the US.
Major films like Star Wars thrive on the occasional cinema-goer, those who only go to the movies three or four times a year.
But coming out only a few weeks after two major superhero blockbusters, Avengers: Infinity War and Deadpool 2, clearly took a chunk out of Solo‘s market.
Few people go to the movies three weeks in a row, so Star Wars lost out against Marvel.
The irony is the other studios made way for Solo, holding off the release dates of other major movies so as not to compete with the sci-fi film.
As a result, ticket sales this weekend were particularly soft in both Australia and the United States.
Solo only just made the number one spot in Australia last week, but Deadpool 2 overtook it again this week.
China doesn’t care
It would have been unthinkable to George Lucas in 1977, but much of Hollywood’s success nowadays is tied to China.
That’s a big problem for the Star Wars franchise.
When the western world was making repeat visits to see The Empire Strikes Back in 1980, China was still under the oppressive rule of an anti-American regime.
Without that historical connection to Star Wars, cinemagoers in the People’s Republic couldn’t care less.
So much so that the film was billed as Ranger Solo in China, because the label Star Wars was judged by Disney to hurt ticket sales there.
But the new name didn’t do the trick. Solo did even worse on its opening weekend in China than famous duds like Passengers and Ghost in the Shell.
China is proving hard for Hollywood to gauge. While the latest Transformers bombed in the rest of the world, its box office success in China was enough to guarantee another sequel of the franchise.