Lucasfilm and Disney made big news Tuesday when announcing that Star Wars: Episode IX will invade theaters May 24, 2019.
But the studio made no mention of any further dates for more Star Wars film, begging the question, Will there be a spinoff announced in the coming weeks or months for 2020 as Lucasfilm figures out its plan for the continuation of the revived franchise?
Most are betting the answer is yes, and that the Force won't be taking a year off in 2020. CEO Bob Iger recently said Lucasfilm, which Disney bought in 2012, is already plotting what could be the next decade-and-a-half of Star Wars movies. Lucasfilm's current plans will have seen one Star Wars film released each year from 2015 through 2019.
There's heated speculation about a spinoff starring Boba Fett, the fan-favorite bounty hunter from the original trilogy. Fans have also clamored for an Obi-Wan Kenobi spinoff that would see Ewan McGregor reprise his role from the prequels, playing the Jedi Alec Guinness portrayed in the original trilogy. And then there's the possibility of a Darth Vader stand-alone.
"They will want to keep the momentum going," says box-office analyst Paul Dergarabedian.
Disney could use the upcoming D23 Expo in July as a venue to announce future movies. (Many geeks expected such news at the recent Star Wars Celebration.)
The dating of Episode IX also made headlines for cementing the return of Star Wars to summer, the corridor used for the first six films overseen by George Lucas before he sold Lucasfilm to Disney.
Disney and Lucasfilms' Star Wars: The Force Awakens was originally supposed to open in summer 2015, but then moved to mid-December. While some fans groused about the change, all was forgotten when Force Awakens opened to $248 million in North America, the biggest start of all time, on its way to earning $2.068 billion worldwide. Spinoff Rogue One: A Star Wars Story opened in December 2016, while Star Wars: The Last Jedi (Episode VIII) debuts Dec. 15. However, the Han Solo spinoff is set for May 25, 2018.
"This change will take the franchise back to its spiritual roots as a summertime moviegoing event. In addition, the dynamics of the release calendar tomorrow may be drastically different than today and may also include tangential strategies for the international rollout of the films as well," says Dergarabedian. "Bottom line: If Disney is making these changes it must be part of a well thought out and strategically savvy business plan. One need only look at their recent track record to know that it would be unwise to second guess these bold moves."
One complicating factor for Lucasfilm is the next installment in the Indiana Jones franchise, which reunites director Steven Spielberg with star Harrison Ford. Also on Tuesday, Disney announced it is pushing back the release of Indiana Jones 5 from July 19, 2019, to July 10, 2020.
Still, don't count on Disney to give up on the lucrative Christmas box office. The studio has claimed the date of Dec. 20, 2019, for an untitled, live-action fairy tale. Projects in the works that don't have release dates include Aladdin and Maleficent 2, among other options. To boot, the studio on Tuesday announced that Frozen 2 will hit theaters Nov. 27, 2019.