Commentary

Disney Must Ponder If The Dismal 'Solo' Debut Is A Stand-alone Falter

Is Solo: A Star Wars Story a victim of too-high expectations? Or of tepid reviews? Enough of the spin-offs already? Too many intergalactic antics too soon? Is it too predictable? Or did bad publicity do it in? Let us mull the punditry.

First, the facts. “Lucasfilm and Disney are facing a moment of reckoning,” Pamela McClintock writes for The Hollywood Reporter.

“Over Memorial Day weekend, they were jolted when Solo: A Star Wars Story battled hard to hit $103 million domestically and bombed overseas with $65 million. The film badly trailed the launch of fellow stand-alone pic Rogue One: A Star Wars Story, which debuted to $155 million domestically in 2016 on its way to topping $1.056 billion globally. At its current rate, Solo may not gross much more than $400 million in all after costing at least $250 million to produce before marketing.”

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And the thing is, it’s not standing out there all by itself. It’s carrying the weight of the franchise on its shoulders (some posit).

“Its soft start raises important questions about the health of one of Disney’s most valuable brands, on which the entertainment giant is wagering much, including upcoming movies, a streaming television series and costly new theme park areas under construction in Florida and California. Disney paid $4 billion in 2012 for Lucasfilm Ltd., the company behind the Star Wars series,” writes Ben Fritz for The Wall Street Journal.

“What happened?” asks Brooks Barnes in the New York Times. “Multiplex gridlock, for a start,” he responds. “What’s that?” you ask. Well, “Solo arrived in the shadow of the Death Star — Avengers: Infinity War — and hot on the heels of Deadpool 2 (20th Century Fox). Deadpool 2 placed second over the weekend, taking in $42.7 million between Friday and Sunday, for a two-week domestic total of about $207.4 million. Infinity War (Disney) was third, collecting $16.5 million, for a five-week total of $622 million.”

Indeed, “Solo defied weeks of industry projections by landing below even conservative estimates,” Michael Cavna reports for the Washington Post. But, he points out, “some skeptics may claim that the sour Solo box office points to Star Wars fatigue, but the true test of that won’t come for nearly 19 months, when J.J. Abrams’s Star Wars: Episode IX, the final installment of Disney’s first main trilogy, opens right before Christmas. Solo is the first Disney Star Wars film not to open during the winter holidays and the first to open just five months after the previous Star Wars film.”

But Episode IX better be better than really good.

Solo does everything it sets out to do very well, but that doesn’t change the fact that the movie has no mystery, and no reason to exist outside of a cash grab,” writes Ben Kuchera for Polygon. “… Solo isn’t a bad movie — I found it to be much better than I was expecting — but I understand why audiences are staying away. Fans walk out knowing exactly as much about Han Solo as they knew walking in.”

For The Wrap, Jeremy Foster ponders five reasons why Solo “crumbled” at the box office — and suggests they represent only “some” on the reasons — but his No. 1 is: “Months of bad publicity.” 

“The struggle for Solo truly began when Phil Lord and Chris Miller were fired five months after production began. From there, reports surfaced that the improvisational style of the two Lego Movie filmmakers clashed with the stick-to-the-script philosophy of longtime Star Wars screenwriter Lawrence Kasdan and Lucasfilm President Kathleen Kennedy,” Foster continues.

Tim Grierson also cites the internal wrangling at the top of his own five reasons the flick “stalled.” For Rolling Stone, he writes:  “Like salesmen and magicians, movies have to win us over in part through sheer confidence: We have to believe that they believe they know what they're doing. For perhaps the first time since Star Wars became a global phenomenon, the franchise seemed unsure of itself, and audiences could feel the disturbance in the force.

“In their place came Ron Howard, a hire that was seen by some fans as a safe choice by the studio to ensure the project would be completed without further creative conflicts.”

For his part, Howard chose to bathe in the light of positive reviews by fans.

“Didn’t meet projections but amounts to a new personal best. Check #SoloAStarWarsStory for balanced feedback & then C it on a big screen!,” tweets @RealRonHoward. And, sure enough, anything negative you’ve read is counterbalanced by the force of the fans’ reactions therein.

As for us, we’re sympathetic to the POV expressed by the New York Times’ Danny Hakim in a paean to the Golden Trailer Awards, and to the evolving art of the previews themselves. 

“I do some of my best and deepest sleeping at the superhero movies. (I’m looking at you, Avengers),” he writes after mentioning his role as a chauffeur and chaperone to two teenage sons. But trailers engross him.

“Personally, I can get fixated on a trailer in the same way that I’ll listen to a song until I never want to hear it again. I’ll dabble in the frame-by-frame breakdowns of Star Wars trailers. I’ll even sometimes watch how fans recut trailers.”

But without a ticket sale, it’s just marketing for marketing’s sake.

3 comments about "Disney Must Ponder If The Dismal 'Solo' Debut Is A Stand-alone Falter".
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  1. Tom Siebert from BENEVOLENT PROPAGANDA, May 29, 2018 at 3:19 p.m.

    "The Last Jedi" turned a lot of people off. It seems nobody in media wants to write that, but it's the case. If you read the diehard fans commenting on Reddit and many entertainment news sites, they're not going in order to send a message to Disney. 


    As bad as the US results were, it's the overseas box office that was the real disaster. Disney might be able to win the US market back, but as a global powerhouse "Star Wars" is done. 


    Disney tried to broaden the audience base, but instead lost their core--the diehards and teen boys. After the past couple movies, my son had zero interest in "Star Wars," and neither did any of his friends. 


    It's too bad, because "Solo" is actually a pretty good "teen boys" kind of movie. But you got to think Disney is going to be sweating it on Episode 9. The worm has turned, and all the media spin and halfway-there analysis isn't going to change the reality of filmgoers perceptions of what the franchise has become. 


     

  2. Randy Scott from n/a, May 29, 2018 at 3:26 p.m.

    The Pareto Principle states that 80% of your sales comes from 20% of your customers.

    This means that alienating even the 10-15% of the demographic who are hardcore fans will cause the MASSIVE losses seen in Solo. 

  3. Ed Papazian from Media Dynamics Inc, May 29, 2018 at 4:01 p.m.

    Looks to me, Tom, like a repeat of the James Bond franchise---eventually turning into a self-parody.

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