×

‘Solo’: How Big a Box Office Dud Is the ‘Star Wars’ Spinoff?

Solo: A Star Wars Story” is a rare misstep for Disney and for one of the preeminent film franchises in Hollywood history. It’s a painful reminder that even the most successful movie series can stumble and that even cocky Han Solo isn’t immune to some humbling box office results.

The numbers don’t lie. “Solo” earned a disappointing $103 million in North America over its opening weekend and stalled out with $68.2 million overseas. At this rate, it will fall short of the $1 billion mark that each Disney-released “Star Wars” adventure has managed to fly past. The latest installment will struggle to make even half that amount globally. Analysts project “Solo” could end its run with approximately $400 million to $450 million in revenues, a dreadful result for a film that cost at least $250 million to produce and $150 million to promote.

“It’s a financial disappointment and you have to wonder, is this just a speed bump in the road for the ‘Star Wars’ brand, or is there something more here?,” said Eric Handler, an analyst at MKM Partners.

There are concerns that Disney has overdone it with the “Star Wars” sequels and spinoffs, rolling out four films since 2015 at a pace that runs the risk of inspiring franchise fatigue. However, calling the film a bomb, as some have labeled it, may be hyperbolic. After all, “Solo” is much more than a film. It’s a merchandising apparatus; one designed to move t-shirts, action figures, bedding, and even something as quotidian as plastic cups and paper plates. Disney is unlikely to be taking a write-down, even though the company will lose tens of millions on the theatrical part of “Solo’s” life-cycle. In contrast, it made a profit on the big screen runs for each of the three “Star Wars” movies it released since buying Lucasfilm, the franchise’s creator, for roughly $4 billion in 2012.

Instead, Disney will need to rely on selling television rights, moving DVDs and Blu-rays, and monetizing other forms of home entertainment distribution as it tries to salvage its investment and push the film into the black. Most studios only receive half of the box office revenues and share the other half with exhibitors. Disney is different. The studio has been able to leverage its arsenal of Marvel, Pixar, and “Star Wars” movies to extract better terms from theater chains. The company brings in roughly 60% of ticket revenue, according to sources.

It’s not unusual for a big-budget film to have to earn most of its money from ancillary revenues. Roughly half of most movies’ revenues come from its theatrical window with the rest coming from pay-TV deals, rentals, and disc and digital sales, insiders say.

But “Star Wars” isn’t a typical franchise. Its sequels and spinoffs aren’t supposed to view their theatrical runs as loss-leaders. They’re supposed to generate hefty profits from the big screen. At one point, Disney had entertained ideas of having the space opera series be another Marvel, with visions of producing at least one movie a year set in its mythical galaxy. Those lofty ambitions may have to become more grounded. At the very least, Disney is unlikely to release two “Star Wars” films in the span of five months as it did with “Solo” and “Star Wars: The Last Jedi.”

“They probably won’t be able to make a ‘Solo’ sequel, as they probably hoped they would,” Handler said. “I think it makes them a little more cautious in how they treat the canon.”

The studio may have received a bruising reality check with “Solo,” and been forced to recognize that even “Star Wars” movies can whiff at the box office. However, Disney has already fielded two $1 billion-plus grossing pictures this year with “Avengers: Infinity War” and “Black Panther,” and still has “The Incredibles 2” and “Ant-Man and the Wasp” hitting theaters in a matter of weeks. The studio is still in an enviable position.

“They can weather the storm more than any other studio because of the franchises they have that are doing amazing business,” said Jeff Bock, an analyst with Exhibitor Relations. “Out of any studio, they can take a couple hits.”

RELATED VIDEO:

More Film

  • Josefina-Molina

    Josefina Molina: Still Battling After All These Years

    SAN SEBASTIAN  — She isn’t done yet. The battling character of Josefina Molina, winner of Spain’s 2019 National Cinematography Prize, was glimpsed in her acceptance speech at the San Sebastian Festival on Saturday. She used part to thank those who had given crucial help, such as, among women, editors Nieves Martin (1981’s “Función de Noche,” [...]

  • Suro

    Lastor, ‘The Endless Trench’s’ Irusoin, Malmo Team for Mikel Gurrea’s ‘Suro’ (EXCLUSIVE)

    SAN SEBASTIAN – Barcelona-based Lastor Media and Malmo Pictures have teamed with San Sebastian’s Irusoin to produce “Suro” (The Cork), the feature debut of Mikel Gurrea and a product of San Sebastian’s Ikusmira Berriak program. The film stars Laia Costa, who broke through with Sebastian Schipper’s “Victoria” and also serves as executive producer, and Pol López [...]

  • Ane

    Madrid’s ECAM Incubator Develops Terrorism Drama 'Ane'

    SAN SEBASTIAN — For the second year in a row, the ECAM Madrid Film School has paired a number of up-and-coming filmmakers with various industry veterans for an Incubator program part of the school broader development arm called The Screen. For its initial edition in 2018, this Incubator selected five feature projects, putting the selected [...]

  • Roma Cinematography

    'Mission: Impossible - Fallout' and 'Roma' Win LMGI Awards for Motion Pictures

    Two major 2018 releases – actioner “Mission: Impossible – Fallout” and critics’ darling “Roma” – were honored for film location work by the Location Managers Guild International at a ceremony this evening at the Eli & Edythe Broad Stage in Santa Monica. The 6th Annual LMGI Awards also recognized “Chernobyl” and “Tom Clancy’s Jack Ryan” [...]

  • Soho House

    Soho House Lands In Downtown Los Angeles

    Warner Music, Spotify and Lyft are poised to welcome a new neighbor to downtown Los Angeles’ Arts District with Soho Warehouse, the third California outpost of the Hollywood-loved members-only club — and the largest North American opening to date. Hot on the heels of the Soho House Hong Kong debut earlier this summer, the private [...]

  • Born to Be Live: 'Easy Rider'

    Born to Be Live: 'Easy Rider' Gets a Concert/Screening Premiere at Radio City

    In a year full of major 50th anniversary commemorations — from Woodstock to the moon landing — why not one for “Easy Rider,” Dennis Hopper’s hippie-biker flick that was released on July 14, 1969? That was the idea when a rep for Peter Fonda, who starred in the film as the laid-back Captain America, reached out [...]

  • Costa Gavras

    Costa-Gavras and Cast on Nationality, Identity, and Cinema

    SAN SEBASTIAN  —  Though he’s been based in Paris since 1955 and came up through the French film industry, director Costa-Gavras has never forgotten his roots. “Those who are born Greek,” said the Peloponnese-born filmmaker at a Saturday press conference,  “stay Greek all their lives.” The once-and-always Greek was not just in San Sebastian to [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content