Citing the success of Star Wars: The Force Awakens as a record-setting December debut, Walt Disney Studios announced today that Star Wars: Episode VIII, the direct sequel to the film and second part of a planned trilogy, will release on December 15, 2017.
That is a changed date, originally scheduled for May 26, 2017, which would have put Star Wars back to its traditional late May release schedule. The movie will instead now be the third December release in a row for the franchise, with Rogue One: A Star Wars Story, a film that takes place just prior to the original first film in the series, due out December 2016. It appears this may be Disney's ongoing plan now - after proving they can have a well-over billion dollar release in the traditionally light month of December, putting Star Wars there on a more permanent basis could prove lucrative to them.
May will continue to be home to an annual Marvel Studios release, with Captain America: Civil War, Guardians of the Galaxy Vol 2, and Avengers: Infinity War scheduled for the next three May first weekends. Disney also announced that they're moving Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales from its July 2017 release into the May 26, 2017 slot they have just opened.
Star Wars: The Force Awakens now holds forty box office records, including the largest domestic, global, December, and Holiday debuts of all time. The film has the highest domestic gross ever, currently at $861 million after five weekends, and an international gross of over $1 billion for a current worldwide cume of $1.887 billion.
Star Wars: Episode VIII is written and directed by Rian Johnson, and will start filming in London's Pinewood Studios in the next few weeks, continuing the story of Rey, Finn, Poe, Kylo Ren, plus more legacy characters and all-new characters.
December 15, 2017 is also currently the release date of Warner Bros.' Ready Player One, a scifi film directed by Steven Spielberg, based on the book by Ernest Cline.