If the world premiere of The Last Jedi Saturday evening is any indication, the lure of big screen ain’t dead yet and we’ll all be facing weeks of Star Wars everywhere 40 years after its debut — online, in the malls and in holiday party chit-chat.
It was quite the “splashy” Hollywood spectacle, as you might have imagined, transporting “over 2,000 lucky guests to a galaxy far, far away—via the Shrine Auditorium in downtown Los Angeles. The red carpet featured a larger-than-life AT-AT Walker transport vehicle that soared over fans dressed as Star Wars characters and a procession of droids, Stormtroopers and red-armored members of the Praetorian Guard,” reports Paul Chi for Vanity Fair.
Meanwhile, “Disney and Lucasfilm screened Star Wars: The Last Jedi for members of the media ahead of the film's debut,” Lucy O’Brien writes for ING.com. “The press were allowed to share their reactions on Twitter before official reviews go live, and based on the roundup of mightily enthusiastic initial impressions below, Rian Johnson's flick is taking us into new territory.”
Suffice to say that 240 characters could barely contain the enthusiasm of most of them.
Oh, okay. “Star Wars: The Last Jedi is everything. Intense, funny, emotional, exciting. It’s jam-packed with absolutely jaw dropping moments and I loved it so, so much. I’m still shaking,” Gizmodo’s entertainment reporter Germain Lussier tweets.
“Director and screenwriter Ava Duvernay called it ‘a total joy-ride through the galaxy,’ reports Elizabeth Crane for ReCode, adding that if Twitterverse is to be believed, you are going to want to avoid spoilers at all cost.”
Of course, there a lot more coming this week — all part of Disney’s strategy to expand its kingdom on the foundation of a small number of tentpoles. With The Last Jedi, Disney is more than likely to overtake Warner Bros and will garner the largest total market share among Hollywood studios for the second straight year, IndieWire’s Tom Brueggemann points out. It will do so even though it went from mid-June (Cars 3) until November (Thor: Ragnarok) without a release.
“This is the apotheosis of what most studios have been heading toward. Disney Studios have become the equivalent of their parks,” Brueggemann writes. “They have Pixarland (Cars 3, Coco), Marvel World (Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2, Thor: Ragnarok), Fairytale Village (Beauty and the Beast) Disneyworld (in-house animation like Moana), even a long-running franchise named after a ride (Pirates of the Caribbean). And currently the biggest asset of all — the Star Wars series.
Plus, the fewer movies it produces, the more it saves on marketing them. ”Every wide release, whether the production budget is $5 million or $250 million, requires an expensive marketing and distribution outlay (for domestic $25 million or more low end),” Brueggemann continues.
“Walt Disney's prime marketing job is two-fold. First, they have to temper expectations so they don't end up with another Avengers: Age of Ultron situation. As you recall, that MCU sequel started a wave of handwringing about superhero fatigue and/or how the MCU was killing pop culture after it opened with ‘just’ $191 million in its debut weekend,” Scott Mendelson wrote for Forbes a few weeks ago.
And second, “while Walt Disney will be selling the notion that Episode VIII won't be as big of a hit as Episode VII (especially overseas, I would argue), their other job will be taking steps to prevent too much of a downturn,” he continues.
True enough, I’m sure, but maybe all Disney will have to do is get the word out that The Last Jedi is a pretty compelling story, well told. That’s worked through the millennia.