Join Date: Mar 2013
Will Disney Sacrifice 'Star Wars' Films For 'Star Wars' Toys?
Will Disney Sacrifice 'Star Wars' Films For 'Star Wars' Toys? http://www.chicagotribune.com/busine...,2056540.story
9:35 a.m. CDT, November 1, 2013
On pretty much the one-year anniversary of the day Disney bought Lucasfilm for $4 billion, we're getting confirmation via The Hollywood Reporterof some of the behind-the-scenes struggles that have been rumored regarding the next Star Wars film. The short version is that the creative minds behind the film (producer Kathleen Kennedy, and to a lesser extent director J.J. Abrams) preferring to push the film into summer 2016 while Disney CEO Bob Iger remains firm that the film come out for summer 2015. But at what cost?
This is an almost comically stereotypical battle between art and commerce, with the "artists" wanting the most time possible to make the best film possible while the business overlords want something to release over summer 2015 (presumably the mid-May weekend before Memorial Day weekend) damn the long term consequences. Abrams is said to be more on board with the firm 2015, with allegations of him taking more control over the process, but I'd frankly argue that he knows that he will be the one to take the fall should this new Stars Wars film prove an artistic disappointment.
This really is of course a story of short term profits versus long term rewards. Disney has much riding on the oft-repeated declaration that they would dominate summer 2015 with a new Star Wars film and The Avengers: Age of Ultron.With the much-publicized delay of Pixar's The Good Dinosaur from next summer toNovember 2015 getting all sorts of unfair negative reaction (Because how dare Pixar take the time required to make the best possible film?), Disney has little desire the create the impression that two of its three flagship franchises (along with the steady Marvel Universe films) is in any kind of trouble.
Also of note, a move even to November/December 2015 would put a comparative dent in toy sales, since you wouldn't have the initial sales blitz in summer 2015 followed by a second wave for the holidays fueled by the DVD/Blu-Ray release.I'm sure you'll be shocked... SHOCKED to hear that a major corporation is perhaps putting short term quarterly profits ahead of long term gain, but there you have it. The amount of rushing that will be required for the film, which is starting somewhat fresh at the scripting stages with Lawrence Kasden taking over for original screenwriter Michael Arndt just a couple weeks ago, leaves exactly zero room for error or artistic flexibility.
While the first Star Wars film will surely make over/under $1 billion even if it's terrible, the risk to the just-acquired brand is too great for Disney to take such creative chances purely to meet an arbitrary release date.Now you'll surely tell me that the quality of these Star Wars films is irrelevant as fans and general audiences will see them regardless. After all, the fans mostly disliked the 1999-2005 prequel trilogy and those were all massive smash hits right? If we were talking about just another three-film trilogy, I'd agree with you that fans would hold their nose and see it through to the end. More importantly, the Star Wars prequel trilogy was lucky enough to debut just before the wave of CGI-infused blockbusters that set the mold for modern tentpoles.
Back in May 1999, Star Wars was still basically the biggest game in town, with Harry Potter, Lord of the Rings, and the second wave of comic book films just around the corner. In today's fantasy-fueled marketplace, Star Wars is just another big-scale fantasy property, rather than the only game in town. The return of Star Wars this time around is akin to the return of James Bond in Goldeneyeback in 1995, with 007 returning to the action film landscape now doing battle against the likes of Die Hard, Lethal Weapon, and Batman. Star Wars: Episode VII isn't even guaranteed to be the biggest summer blockbuster of 2015, with The Avengers 2, Batman/Superman, and Jurassic Worldproviding genuine competition.
Again, if this were merely another three-film trilogy, this would be irrelevant, as the fans would see it through whether they liked it or not. But Disney has of course a grand design with basically a never-ending supply of Star Wars films, with a new "episode" and a spin-off film alternating each year from summer 2015 until we all leave this Earth. Rushing the first film, easily the most important Star Wars film of the whole Disney scheme, is an artistic risk that is also a massive and completely unnecessary commercial risk. The first couple Star Wars films will surely make oodles of short term box office grosses for Disney stockholders and respective financial partners.
But how long Disney can maintain the allure of the Star Wars brand, especially one sans much input fromGeorge Lucas, is directly related to how good these first few movies turn out to be. If the first film is mediocre or terrible, or falls short in comparison to fellow blockbusters, the brand risks permanent tarnishing that will jeopardize the long term success of Disney's $4 billion investment. Disney is apparently willing to put its grand purchase in peril for the sake of meeting arbitrary release date partially fueled by the toy sales and stock expectations. Yes we all know that the very purchase of Lucasfilm was about the merchandise, with Star Wars related toys and games earning around $1.5 billion in 2011,but perhaps Disney should remember that they can sell a lot more Star Wars merchandise off of a good Star Wars movie than a bad one.
Disney hasAvengers 2and Ant-Manin summer 2015 and The Good Dinosaurin November 2015, along with Finding Dory and (possibly)Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales in summer 2016. Point being, Disney can afford to wait for this newStar Warsfilm until its ready, confident that it will dominate whichever quarter it happens to get released in.Warner Bros. played the smart game in 2008/2009, moving Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince from November 2008 to July 2009, knowing that profits from The Dark Knight would tide them over for the rest of 2008 and knowing that a sixth Harry Potter film would help them dominate summer 2009. I'd suggest Disney think along similar lines.
Disney can afford to wait on Star Wars, but I'd argue that they can ill-afford not to. They are taking an awful risk with this. It had better work. The desire to choose quarterly profits over long term financial glory is putting the entire franchise in potential danger. I can't be alone in having a (very) bad feeling about this.