So, Solo: A Star Wars Story is officially struggling at the box office which is coming as a surprise to pretty much everyone. The film was expected to release to a $100M+ opening this past weekend at the domestic box office, but only managed to clear $84M with an additional $18M on Memorial Day, bringing its total up to a little over $103M here in the States. Even overseas the film has been foundering, making only a little over $69M in foreign markets with many already declaring the film a bomb. And it’s resulted in a particularly vile subjection of the Star Wars fandom to celebrate.
Solo: A Star Wars Story. The fandom reared its ugly head.
As I am sure you all know this particular subject of the fandom reared its ugly head around the time The Last Jedi was released who took to the internet to declare that the film was the worst thing that the Star Wars franchise has ever produced. Most of these complaints, however, tend to devolve into declaring that Lucasfilm President Kathleen Kennedytags, Disney and it’s so-called SJW agenda, (whatever that even means), are ruining the franchise, despite critical and financial evidence to suggest otherwise.
Because of this so-called outrage, these “fans” have demanded that people boycott future Star Wars films so that the people in charge will listen to their demands, whatever they might be. And as you might expect these people are celebrating the fact that Solo is struggling at the box office, declaring that their boycott was a success. And…well…fine. If your existence is so sad and hate-filled that the only pleasure you get is from seeing an otherwise harmless summer blockbuster not make enough money to cover a third world country’s deficit, then take what you can get I suppose. But here is the hard truth: The film is not struggling because of your stupid little boycott.
Hardcore fans only make up a small number of the overall audience.
You see despite what some have called the “Geek Takeover of Hollywood” the so-called hardcore fans of various nostalgia properties like Star Wars only make up a small number of the films overall audience and actually have very little influence when it comes to these kinds of things. The average moviegoer just wants to be entertained for a few hours or so before returning to the grind of daily life. They don’t really care, for example, that Kylo Ren is basically a retooled version of Jacen Solo from the original Expanded Universe and whatever frustrations longtime fans may have from this. That’s why something like say, the Michael Bay Transformer films could get away with four financially successful films but only be an adaptation by name.
In fact, the films only stopped being successful with audiences when they grew wise to the fact that all the films were virtually the same and realized that they had better options in other franchises. Likewise, if these so-called “Hardcore Star Wars Fans” had nearly as much power over the franchise as they think The Last Jedi wouldn’t have made over $600M in the United States, sold out its DVD/Blu-ray copies on Amazon on its first week and Solo would be doing A LOT worse than it is. You see, the real reason behind the film’s financial difficulty is a bit more complicated, having to do with its release date, marketing, budget, behind the scenes drama and the competition it faced over the weekend.
The release date.
The first major cause of the film underperforming has to do with its release date. You see, previous Star Wars films had enjoyed success due in part to the fact that they were released in December and faced little competition throughout the month and the early months of the following year. Solo, however, opened on Memorial Day weekend which, historically is not the best weekend to open a film on. The biggest opening film of that weekend was Pirates of the Caribbean: At Worlds End and that film didn’t even clear a $140M.
In fact, out of all of the film’s that were released on Memorial Day weekend, only seven have actually cleared the $100M marker and Solo was the first to do it since X-Men: Days of Future Past back in 2014. Once upon a time, it was a prime spot for major blockbusters, but that hasn’t been the case in a long time. In fact, if you look at films that were released on Memorial Day weekend, the ones that have been considered big hits over the past decade or so had smaller budgets then many of their contemporaries, ensuring a much larger profit.
Another problem has to do with the film’s competition. Like it or not the film was released on the coattails of Avengers: Infinity War which has been repeatedly breaking records worldwide and has quickly become one of the most talked about summer blockbusters in a long time. In addition, it also had another high-profile sequel to compete with, in Deadpool 2, that was released just a week before. This was yet another major superhero film that quickly earned the biggest opening of any R rated film and audiences are still heading to it in droves. In other words, it’s a film that was released in a packed month, guaranteeing that it wouldn’t make as big of a haul if it were released a week later.
It’s also worth noting that the film’s marketing was less than stellar. The film only had two main trailers that both looked rather underwhelming. They were less about plot and action and more “Look! We made a Han Solo movie!” And despite the value that the character has to the Star Wars universe, that was never going to be enough. In fact, the arguably most entertaining marketing for the film came from a fan video that cut the trailer to the Star Wars Kinect Game song, I’m Han Solo.
The negative publicity.
Another big issue is the fact that the film was surrounded by an air of negative publicity. Despite the best efforts on the part of Lucasfilm whenever the subject of the film came up it would almost always turn to the firing of former directors Phil Lord and Chris Miller. This resulted in replacement director Ron Howard having to reshoot the majority of the film, inadvertently leading to this story to continue to circulate for nearly a year before it was released. And that kind of publicity is going to have a negative effect on your box office haul.
The final and arguably the biggest reason behind the film struggling has to do with its budget. Information on the Solo’s original budget is a little hard to come by but it has been reported that it was raised substantially in order to accommodate Ron Howard’s reshoots with the final price tag being reported around $250M. Exactly how much of an increase this was, however, is unknown but some have speculated that the original budget was around half that amount. And as anyone who saw the film will tell you this lower budgeted number seems to better suit what we saw on the big screen. This was clearly intended to be a smaller, less spectacle-driven Star Wars film; which suggested that the film would have cost less. And had the film cost whatever its original budget was, the story would be “Which new spinoff from this story will we see first?” as opposed to “Solo Struggles at the box office”.
In the end, Solo: A Star Wars Story’s struggle is kind of a tragic tale. The film overall is fairly good and enthusiastic, if not great, movie and it’s kind of a shame that the box office hasn’t been treating it as well as it might otherwise deserve. It’s just difficult to escape the black hole that is a historically average weekend that is best suited to smaller releases. In addition, it was hit by constant waves of negative publicity, with a lax marketing campaign that did little to sell people on the film. The final nail in the coffin seems to have been a bloated budget that more or less ensured that the film would never make as much money as it might have otherwise. Hopefully, future installments will learn from this film’s mistakes and other smaller Star Wars projects will be more successful as a result; but I can assure you that its current struggles have little to do with an angry fanboy’s boycott.
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