Disney and Lucasfilm are making headlines again. First was the announcement, only a week after firing Colin Trevorrow from directing Star Wars: Episode IX, that they were bringing back J.J. Abrams to take over, who last directed Star Wars: The Force Awakens (Episode VII.) The story was barely knocked off the front page for the iPhone X when they were back with the counter punch: The premiere date is also moving back. So when does Star Wars: Episode IX premiere?
The movie is moving back the date to allow Abrams more time to work on pre-production. (Harry Potter playwright Jack Thorne is out, and Abrams will pen the final episode with co-writer Chris Terrio.) With production now moved back from starting in February of 2018 to June, the new date for the movie's release is December 20, 2019.
If you're really confused by that, I don't blame you. After all, the premiere date for Star Wars: The Force Awakens was December 18, 2015. The premiere date for Star Wars: The Last Jedi (Episode VIII) is December 15, 2017. Rogue One came out last year on December 10, 2016. Star Wars movies are Christmas movies, yes?
Well, actually no. That December release date was only supposed to be for the first couple of movies. Disney and Lucasfilm actually want their movies to be summer blockbusters, and premiere just ahead of Memorial Day weekend -- like the original did in the late '70s/early '80s and the prequels did back in the late 90s/early aughts. (The original Star Wars came out May 25, 1977.)
That's why The Somehow Amazingly Still Untitled Han Solo Joint Now With Bonus Paul Bettany is coming out May 25, 2018. The Han Solo movie's premiere was supposed to herald a move to May. (It's one which the production has refused to budge on too, even as Ron Howard seems to be refilming the entire movie.) Star Wars Episode IX: The Force Resets Its Alarm Clock was therefore slated to debut one year later on May 24, 2019, cementing that weekend as their own once more heading into the next decade.
Other tentpole movies have been functioning accordingly as if this was a done deal. Warner Brothers, for instance, booked their only guaranteed DCEU hit, Wonder Woman 2: Petty Jenkins Hits Paydirt, for December of 2019, for instance, since it was empty. One can assume that they'll be reconsidering that premiere date in an awful hurry now, especially if The Last Jedi proceeds to hoover up every last box office dollar this Christmas in order to feed their growing porg army.
This six-month push back is bad news for fans, who will now have to wait even longer to see how the saga reaches the end. Still, the choice to move it up to May, only to move the date back to December is one that works in Lucasfilm's favor. At this point, audiences are getting used to Christmas in a galaxy far, far away, and probably won't even realize they've had to wait extra time.
Curiously, even though Star Wars is abandoning the consolidation of the Memorial Day slot for the time being, they still haven't moved the Han Solo movie back. Most would have assumed the delays and troubles of that movie would have made it the first to fall back to a December-teenth position first, with Star Wars: Episode IX following suit only if deemed necessary.
At this point, the Han Solo release date in May leaves it out on an island all by itself. It's now the only one of the new franchise that won't have a guaranteed run to itself of weeks of non-blockbuster fare at the box office over the post-Christmas holiday and beginning of January, not to mention fans who are confused at the increasingly off-brand release date.
Is it too late for Lucasfilm to move it to match everyone else? Or will we see Ron Howard tweet out a "December 19, 2018" announcement in fairly short order once he sees Abrams getting more time?