‘Star Wars: Rogue One’ Not Expected to Do ‘Force Awakens’ Business, Disney CEO Says

Rogue One A Star Wars Story
Courtesy of Disney

Disney chief Bob Iger said he just met with LucasFilm head Kathleen Kennedy to map out “Star Wars” movies from 2021 and beyond, signalling that the studio is plunging ahead with plans to keep developing the cinematic universe created by George Lucas.

To that end, the studio has already announced two more planned sequels to its series of films centered on the Skywalker clan, as well as spinoffs about a plot to steal plans for the Death Star and a Han Solo origin story. They have also found a writer for another spinoff, expected to debut in 2020. Those films will hit theaters over the next four years, but Iger signaled to investors at a Goldman Sachs conference on Wednesday that Disney is looking beyond that date for ways to exploit the Jedi Knights and space adventurers that populate the fantasy film series. Similar meetings are taking place at Marvel Films, the maker of hugely successful comic book movies, about what the studio will be doing for the next decade, Iger said.

The Disney chief said he had recently seen a rough cut of “Star Wars: Rogue One,” the first standalone film in the series. “It’s really interesting in terms of ‘Star Wars’ storytelling,” he said. “‘Star Wars’ has only been told as a saga, and this is a moment in time … we love what we’ve seen.”

Iger stressed that “Rogue One,” which unfolds before the first “Star Wars,” is not expected to match the box office returns of “The Force Awakens.” That picture racked up nearly $2.1 billion globally to become the third-highest grossing film in history. “We never felt it would do the level that ‘Force Awakens’ did,” Iger said. But based on the response to the trailers and posters, he said “The level of interest [in ‘Rogue One’] is as high as it was for ‘Force Awakens.'”

“Rogue One” has battled some bad publicity, with reports claiming that the movie needed extensive re-shoots. Felicity Jones stars in the film as a member of the Rebel Alliance, tasked with stealing the blueprint for the Empire’s floating fortress, the Death Star.

The Disney chief talked up the film slate as evidence of the success of the company’s decision to make fewer pics in order to focus its resources around tentpole productions that have more global appeal and that lend themselves to toylines and theme park rides. Iger seemed particularly excited about a sequel to “Frozen” that is in development, as well as a reboot of “Spider-Man” that Marvel will oversee in conjunction with Sony Pictures.

There are other changes taking place across the Disney landscape. The company is beginning to experiment with ways to push ESPN into the internet era, announcing that it will look for ways to offer mobile rights to programming through its investment in BAM Tech, Major League Baseball’s digital arm, and other technologies. Part of that may involve dynamic pricing. ESPN may offer customers more targeted packages centered on a season or even a weekend of games. Iger said ESPN’s core pay-television business remains strong, but acknowledged that consumers want to see programming on multiple devices and platforms.

“We’re doing it to reach more sports fans,” said Iger. “We can’t predict where the business goes over time. … We need to be fully prepared for dramatic shifts should they occur.”

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  1. FerventFlinger says:

    I heard the production was pretty troubled, this just confirms it.

    • j1 says:

      I´ve heard that too. On another article here to Rogue One I read that Disney decided to make a re-shoot of 40 percent of the movie because it was to “dark”. Hello? It is a Star Wars movie not the Lion King. It´s really a shame.

  2. Saul Schimek says:

    I understood this film to be a “Dirty Dozen meets Star Wars” film with more ‘average joe’ characters trying to fight the empire. Which makes things interesting as it shakes things up. I’ll be curious to see what is done with it

  3. nerdrage says:

    I’m sure Disney will make bank with it anyway. But the Han Solo movie is the one that will burn up the box office. Like it or not, brand names are what works. Otherwise, why would Disney pay four billion dollars for an old brand name like Star Wars when they are perfectly capable of inventing some new space opera franchise that I’m sure could have been just as good, given how mediocre TFA was. But it wouldn’t have made TFA money because of the lack of name recognition.

  4. MisterPL says:

    It’s “Lucasfilm.” No uppercase F. Get the F out of there. Thanks.

  5. IT--II--IT says:

    INTEL RUN Hollywood franchise slum – – -with that – — SAME ! – —script.

    BULLLLLLLEH

  6. Looks like that black stormtrooper is holding a little white stormtrooper doll. lol

  7. Cass says:

    In other ‘No Duh’ news….

    • Cath says:

      Exactly…why is that news? I wish they would stop making predictions on this stuff. Have you noticed this year that many of the predictions have been wrong? And then we get the predictions within the predictions day to day over the weekend. It would be nice if they just gave the “Actuals” on Monday and be done with it.

  8. EricJ says:

    Thought Force Awakens wasn’t bad (if you’re going to make Star Wars movie, get Lawrence Kasdan to write it), but good to see Disney is starting to be realistic as we’re just to see results from the “new frontier” of Side Spinoff Stories. Which audiences DON’T usually care about, as the characters are either unknowns or less-liked, and the stories are usually too off the subject to have any real point in the larger franchise.
    Now, will some sensible Disney rep kindly go over to Warner, and tell them not to expect Fantastic Beasts to do Deathly Hallows Pt. 2 business?

  9. Dunstan says:

    “The Force Awakens” was nothing more than a retread of Lucas’s first film. It did spectacular business, obviously, but when I saw it, my only thought was “been there, done that.” None of the films will ever be anything other than the rebels vs. the Empire; doesn’t matter what names they go by.

    • jedi77 says:

      Han Solo probably won’t, since his origin is not concerned with the Empire, but with Jabba The Hutt.
      Not saying you’re wrong, just that you don’t know what you’re talking about:-)

      • nerdrage says:

        Han Solo has the name recognition that made TFA a hit. The movie itself was mediocre so quality is definitely not the deciding factor here. The bigger the brand name, the bigger the box office. Disney has learned that lesson well.

      • MisterPL says:

        Actually, Solo’s origin was tied directly to the Empire. He was a pilot in the Imperial Navy… at least he used to be. Disney ditched the previous non-canonical material and are currently cherry-picking from it.

  10. michonne says:

    Rogue One characters are all very unlikable. They released, like, 3 trailers with 10 of them looking grim, grim and more grim. People connect with characters first, spectacle second. Rogue One is seriously lacking in the former department. It doesn’t help it’s a story set in the past, so sorta prequel, when people are pumped for stories that follow TFA.

    • irwinator1992 says:

      Kathleen Kennedy is one of my favorite studio executives, but she made some very bad decisions with Rogue One (dull tone, wrong filmmakers, being a prequel, etc.). The film is creatively pointless and will add nothing to Star Wars, but only make the universe feel smaller. The other spinoff films look no better.

      On the upside, she did a brilliant job producing TFA, and I absolutely cannot wait for VIII and IX.

  11. Rex says:

    Going back and filling in gaps on this franchise is wholly unnecessary. The plot of the original 1977 Star Wars is basically one big spoiler for Rogue One. I’m sure the money will be on screen, but I can certainly wait to see it at home.

    And the pandering to China’s a bit much, too, especially when plenty of Chinese-AMERICANS should’ve gotten those roles.

    • cadavra says:

      It’s no about quotas, it’s about recognition. Chinese-American actors are no better known there than they are here. Using local talent to boost business is nothing new; Jackie Chan and Michael Hui were put into the “Cannonball Run” movies over 30 years ago when they were both virtually unknown stateside.

  12. Devin says:

    “The level of interest [in ‘Rogue One’] is as high as it was for ‘Force Awakens.’”

    Perhaps based on quantitative analysis, such as trailer viewership, yes. As a hardcore Star Wars fan myself, though, I get the sense that anticipation isn’t quite as sky-high as it was for The Force Awakens.

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