By James DeRuvo (doddleNEWS)
When Disney bought Lucasfilm back in 2012, the studio expected to not only get back their 4.7 Billion investment fairly quickly, but they also predicted a $25 Billion windfall within the first five years. Almost to the day, the Mouse House zoomed past that expected figure fresh off the heals of a $1.5 Billion box office from The Last Jedi, and it’s predecessors The Force Awakens and Rogue One. But when it comes to merchandising, the numbers aren’t as rosy. In fact, many are starting to see what I’m calling “force fatigue.” Is there such a thing as too much Star Wars?
Back when the original trilogy was first hitting theaters, Star Wars redefined not only what a SciFi epic saga could be, but also what merchandising could become. If you haven’t heard the legendary story, George Lucas was able to keep the merchandising rights to his film franchise when he signed the deal with 20th Century Fox to produce the original film, now known as Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope.
Back then, studios considered merchandising an afterthought. Boy howdy did they make a mistake. Even though Star Wars proved to be one of the most lucrative films in cinema history, it was the merchandising rights that made Lucas the wealthy man he is today. And with that kind of clout, nearly 40 years later, he was able to parlay Star Wars juggernaut into the sale to Disney.
But according to the LA Times, toy sales for Star Wars, and other film franchises, were on the wane in 2017, and analysts believe that toy tie ins with the film franchise are reaching burnout proportions. Could this be due to Disney simply putting out too many sequels too soon. We’re on a one a year pace, which is great if you’re a Star Wars fan, but if you’re a parent buying toys for the kiddies, it’s a little much.
Then there’s the competition. According to the Times, there are nearly twice as many movie franchises with serious merchandising campaigns including Marvel, another Disney property. Not only are those franchises competing for the same movie dollars, they’re also going after the same when it comes to merchandising.
Viewing habits are also changing. While The Last Jedi is enjoying tremendous worldwide box office clout (not so much in China, where the film is a flop) movie attendance is down by almost 14%. “There are so many screens now; kids aren’t just at the movies,” said Gerrick Johnson, an analyst for BMO Capital Markets. “A movie doesn’t have the same resonance it used to.”
Back when I was a kid, a Star Wars movie was an event, because we knew that the next chapter was at least four years away and the video wouldn’t come out until next year. Now, we’re getting a movie every year and the video will be streaming on Netflix two-three months down the road. On top of that, those box office numbers are mirroring declines in television viewership, as kids in the valuable 12-35 demographic are getting their entertainment from YouTube, Netflix and other streaming options.
This may be why Disney was planning a pause in Star Wars movies after the current trilogy, and then focus on their streaming services. Then Rian Johnson had an idea for a new trilogy, plus the fans want an Obi Wan film, and Disney just couldn’t resist.
But the question is, with all these movies, the launch of a Star Wars streaming service, and a new themed amusement park coming to Disneyland and Disney World, can the fanbase survive “force fatigue” and keep the juggernaut rolling? Disney seems to think so. In a statement, the Mouse House said that “Star Wars is a force to be reckoned with in the toy industry,it remains the leading film-driven property for the entire year.”
But if that is really true, why are there stories surfacing that Disney wants to talk down our expectations for Solo: A Star Wars Story at the box office?
I sense a disturbance in the force.