Solo Flies Low
Despite making over $100 million in its opening weekend, Solo: A Star Wars story is a disappointment for Lucasfilm and Disney. The film was tracking for a debut weekend in the $150 million range, but the writing was on the wall as soon as the Thursday night preview totals were tallied up, and it ended up with Solo earning the title of the lowest grossing Star Wars film so far, with a second weekend drop that’s one of the steepest in movie history. Certainly a lot of factors are at play here, from franchise fatigue, bad early buzz, and the recasting of a beloved character for the first time in thirty years. But to be honest, I don’t think any of those are a factor for Solo‘s under perfromance, or at least, not wholly responsible. I think it’s honestly a combination of a little bit of all of those factors, with the biggest one being the fact that Solo was in a tough spot already as the third “big blockbuster of the season”.
Think about the release calendar for the past two months. What’s the biggest movie you can think of that came out in that time frame? You probably guessed Avengers: Infinity War, or maybe even Deadpool 2. A large portion of the general public wasn’t aware of Solo‘s release date, especially when the marketing for the film didn’t kick into gear until March, two months prior to the film’s release. By that point we’d already had one Infinity War trailer (with another on the way), and Black Panther to keep the hype train going for Marvel. There was also considerable buzz for Deadpool 2, helped by the continued fantastic marketing campaign of the first movie. There’s only so much space that the average movie goer’s brain can hold for excitement, and unfortunately it seemed like Solo was kind of always destined for a third place finish of the three movies (even though I didn’t expect it to come in THIS low).
The fact that Infinity War was such a massive success definitely plays a factor in Solo’s underperformance as well. Marvel’s big crossover had such a large weekend that it HAD to have been achieved through people seeing it multiple times in a short period of time. I don’t know about you, but for me it would eat up a huge amount of my wallet to cover those ticket prices, and if you’re the type of consumer who has to budget out your theater experiences, then your second (or third) time seeing Infinity War is probably going to mean that another new release down the line won’t get your money.
In a weird way, the success of Disney’s Marvel franchise lead to the “failure” of their Star Wars franchise. With a cast of well-known to potentially well-known characters, the Marvel brand doesn’t need to worry about being tied to one set of characters for success, unlike the Skywalker saga in Star Wars. Sure, almost every entry in the MCU has tied into the road to Infinity War in some way, but there are still plenty of Marvel movies that can be watched independently of each other, so much so that you can have three Marvel releases in one year and have them not effect each other too much. Solo, on the other hand, shows that audiences (or at least, general audiences) aren’t ready for more than one Star Wars movie a year.
While Solo was pretty fun, it had some pretty major problems that should’ve been addressed prior to release. But even if Disney pushed this film back to December (which modern audiences have now been trained to think of as “Star Wars time” after the previous three films), it would’ve gone up against competition like Aquaman and Disney’s own Mary Poppins Returns and Wreck-It Ralph 2, essentially putting it in the same problem area (or worse) as it was here. No matter what, it seemed like Han Solo was destined to disappoint in his solo film, but at least Lucasfilm and Disney will hopefully look at this box office take and learn some valuable lessons.