The newest Star Wars film has not yet hit theaters, but work has already begun on the next film in the series.
“Star Wars: Episode VIII” will reportedly begin shooting in Ireland this month. Its predecessor, “Star Wars: Episode VII – The Force Awakens,” is due to hit theaters in December, and “Episode VIII” will be released in May 2017.
Little is known about the 2017 film except that it will be directed by Rian Johnson, who previously helmed the 2012 sci-fi film “Looper” and “Brick” in 2006, both of which were popular with critics and fans alike.
Mr. Johnson also directed some installments of the highly acclaimed AMC show “Breaking Bad,” including the 2013 episode “Ozymandias,” which critics hailed as one of the best TV episodes of all time.
“Star Wars: Episode VII – The Force Awakens” is directed by J.J. Abrams of “Star Trek Into Darkness.” The switch to a new director for "Episode VIII" echoes the method used to create the original Star Wars trilogy: Each was directed by a different person, including George Lucas and Irvin Kershner.
Mr. Lucas directed all three of the more recent prequel films.
“Episode VII” features the return of some original Star Wars cast members like Harrison Ford, Mark Hamill, and Carrie Fisher, as well as new players like Daisy Ridley, John Boyega, Gwendoline Christie, and Oscar Isaac.
The Star Wars franchise has embraced the spin-off model that has worked so well for companies like Marvel. In addition to Disney releasing “Episode VII” and “Episode VIII,” a film reportedly titled “Rogue One” is coming to theaters in 2016 and centers on a side plot referenced in the original Star Wars film, in which minor rebel characters attempt to steal the plans for the Death Star before it's built.
Why keep making new Star Wars films? Because audiences keep coming back for more.
In addition to the more recent Star Wars films such as “The Phantom Menace” and “Revenge of the Sith” (which were both in the top five highest-grossing films of their respective years), the first "Star Wars," "Episode IV: A New Hope" was the eighth-highest-grossing film of 1997, when it was re-released in theaters.
Even outside of the Star Wars universe, movie audiences continue to show a preference for the familiar. Some decry the lack of original material in big-budget movies, but audiences are voting with their wallets, and the top 10 highest-grossing movies of 2014 were all either remakes or were based on a bestselling book, comic book, or toy. The highest-grossing original film (No. 16 in 2014) was “Interstellar” by Christopher Nolan, one of the few directors right now who can attain blockbuster numbers on his name alone.
The popularity of movies drawn from pre-existing properties is holding true in 2015 as well – the top 10 highest-grossing movies so far are almost all based on previous stories with the exception of Pixar’s “Inside Out.”
Of course, the 2015 box office rankings have plenty of time to shift, especially with the upcoming arrival of a little movie called “Star Wars: Episode VII – The Force Awakens.”