Without citing any reason in particular (although rumors of rewrites are the alleged cause), Variety is reporting that Disney and Lucasfilm announced today that the release date for the still-untitled Star Wars: Episode VIII – written and directed by Rian Johnson – has been pushed back from May 26, 2017 to December 15, 2017. That expands the 18-month gap between episodes to a full two years. It also continues to keep the Star Wars franchise out of the summer season, a return that many nostalgic die-hards had been looking forward to (myself included).
As a result, this December’s release of Rogue One: A Star Wars Story becomes even more vital to fans who are already beginning to experience levels of Star Wars withdrawal, cold-sweating for a new fix. And to accommodate the now huge gap on the calendar for Memorial Day weekend 2017, Disney has bumped up the release of Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales from its original July 7, 2017 date to that May 26 opening. Disney will also be kicking off Summer 2017 with Marvel’s Guardians Of The Galaxy 2 on May 5, and following up with Pixar’s Cars 3 on June 16.
But perhaps the most intriguing ripple effect? There’s two, actually:
1. Warner Bros. had already claimed December 15, 2017 for Steven Spielberg‘s sci-fi thriller Ready Player One. It would seem inevitable for WB to move off that date now, perhaps to November of 2017 if the film can be ready by then, or as late as Summer 2018.
2. Avatar 2 is scheduled to launch just 10 days later on December 25, 2017. Wow. Gauntlet thrown. Clearly, Disney feels it can use the Force to reconfigure the calendar in any way it sees fit, even against Star Wars’ biggest competition. Your move, James Cameron.
All things considered: for as much of a bummer as this news is, the 6-month delay of Star Wars: The Force Awakens clearly paid off. If anything, fans should be encouraged to hear that Lucasfilm and Disney continue to prioritize “getting it right” over hitting some pre-determined release date.