With word that Han Solo: A Star Wars Story is officially releasing in May 2018, it seems the time of a Star Wars movie as a present for the holidays will come to an end with this year's release of Star Wars: The Last Jedi. Three years of mid-December releases, coupled with the incredible success of Star Wars: The Force Awakens (over $2 billion box offic haul) and Rogue One: A Star Wars Story (over $1 billion), plus the move of The Last Jedi to December from an originally announced May release made many fans think that December was here to stay.
First, a caveat: Han Solo could absolutely be a special case. Thanks to May 25 landing on a Friday in 2018, it gives Lucasfilm a unique opportunity to have a Star Wars movie coming out on the exact anniversary of the first film, Star Wars: A New Hope's release (May 25, 1977), and that's hard to pass up (you can bet we'll see marketing to that affect).
When the new lineup of Star Wars films was announced by Disney and Lucasfilm, though, a return to May releases was always the plan. Production schedules wound up shifting that plan temporarily, but Episode VIII, Han Solo, and Episode IX were all originally given May releases, so really the news here is that Episode IX will likely stay in May; still news, as it would be the first of the sequel trilogy to be released outside of December.
The biggest clue was revealed today when it was reported that Episode IX would go into principal photography (the actual filming of the movie) in July 2017. From start to release of The Last Jedi, we have 22 months (to the day, in fact). 22 months from July 2017? May 2019, of course. Disney's official release schedule for Episode IX is still simply "2019," but they do have an unnamed Disney Live-Action Fairy-Tale on the schedule for December 20, 2019, which would preclude a Star Wars release within the same week (they tend to spread their releases out by three weeks).
The late May release, coupled with the first weekend of May for a Marvel Studios movie and the third weekend of June release of a Pixar film, would give Disney a nearly unbeatable hold on the start of the summer blockbuster movie season, something they're testing out next year (Avengers: Infinity War, Han Solo, Incredibles 2), with Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales filling in for Star Wars this year (between GOTG Vol. 2 and Cars 3). Making multi-billion dollar acquisitions of those three brands has paid off for Disney already; tying them together in May and June should make them unstoppable.
Star Wars: Episode IX is in pre-production now under director Colin Trevorrow, off a script by Trevorrow and Derek Connolly (Episode VIII writer/director Rian Johnson contributed to the story), as the team and Lucasfilm also deal with the recent and unexpected death of actress Carrie Fisher, likely changing their plans for General Leia Organa significantly. The only current logline for the movie is: "The upcoming ninth film in the Star Wars saga and the final film in the sequel trilogy," so don't expect any riveting story details out of notices like these.
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