Here's why the release date for 'Star Wars: Episode VIII' has moved

'Star Wars: Episode VIII' will come out in December 2017 rather than that spring. Why has the date shifted?

David James/Disney/Lucasfilm/AP
'Star Wars: The Force Awakens' stars John Boyega (l.) and Daisy Ridley (r.).

“Star Wars” fans will have to be patient. 

The next “Star Wars” movie (presumably) involving new characters like Rey (Daisy Ridley), Finn (John Boyega), and Poe Dameron (Oscar Isaac) has been moved from May 2017 to December 2017. 

This change is made in the wake of the smash box office success of “Star Wars: The Force Awakens” – the highest-grossing movie domestically of all time without adjusting for inflation.

Why the change? Disney seemed to imply in a statement that the December release date for “Force” went so well that they want to try to duplicate that with its sequel. 

“The move follows the extraordinary success of 'Star Wars: The Force Awakens,' which was the first 'Star Wars' movie to premiere in December. In the popular holiday moviegoing corridor, it smashed numerous records,” the statement said

“Star Wars” fans will have some consolation: a movie titled “Rogue One,” which does not center on “Force” characters but tells the story of attempts to seize the plans of the Death Star, is scheduled to hit theaters this coming December.

Fans of Johnny Depp’s pirate franchise will no doubt be pleased to hear that the “Star Wars” shift means the newest “Pirates of the Caribbean” movie, “Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales,” will now open in May 2017 rather than July. 

As we reported, thinking about movie release dates is changing. In some ways, studios seem to have been shifting to more of a year-round schedule than what had been seen in the past, in which the summer blockbuster season (during which the 2017 “Star Wars” movie was set to bow) and the end of the year (when it will now debut) were the high-profile times of the year for movies. 

For example, next month, February, is usually a quieter time at the box office, yet Twentieth Century Fox is releasing its high-profile superhero movie “Deadpool” then.

“The advantage of releasing a movie in a quieter month is that it has less competition,” Paul Levinson, professor of communication and media studies at Fordham University, said in an interview with the Monitor

But Disney and other studios still know that there are times of the year that can almost guarantee big business, especially with families. With “Force,” people of multiple generations were presumably home for the holidays and looking for an outing. With its family-friendly image, “Force” was apparently the perfect choice for many, if that new record held by the movie is anything to go by. 

Thanksgiving, with its built-in long weekend, is another time that can mean big movie business if a film attracts viewers of all ages. The Disney animated movie “Frozen” also dominated when it was released over Thanksgiving, helping to bring the box office to a record-breaking gross for that holiday. 

“Disney's 'Frozen' was a huge hit with families,” Charles Poladian of the International Business Times noted at the time. 

Studios have also learned that they can attract audiences of all ages during the spring. Last year, Disney released its live-action remake of “Cinderella” in March and the movie became a huge hit. Why? Industry watchers credited, among other reasons, various school breaks as having helped bring the film to box office success. Indiewire writer Tom Brueggemann wrote of the movie’s first weekend, “The $70 million domestic opening … should be bolstered by rolling spring vacation breaks over the upcoming weeks,” Deadline writer Anita Busch noted in early April, "Kids are off on school break in several territories, so [Cinderella] will step easily into that $400M glass slipper.” 

Picking the right date and having a movie successfully appeal to all ages is of course no mean feat. But studios like Disney have learned that they can strike box office gold if they time their movies just right and attract viewers of multiple generations.

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