UPDATE, 3:50 PM with chart, more details: After showing the industry the record amount of money that can be made by a Star Wars film at the end of the year, Disney just announced it is moving Star Wars: Episode VIII from its original May 26, 2017, release date to December 15, 2017. That puts Episode VIII head to head with Warner Bros’ Steven Spielberg sci-fi film Ready Player One. No word yet whether Warners is moving that DreamWorks production or not. If Ready Player One does not move, get ready for a brutal weekend between two four-quad tentpoles.
Disney’s release-date change triggered a flurry of moves today. Not only does Disney’s Pirates Of The Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales take over Episode VIII‘s Memorial Day weekend slot, but minutes after the Disney news, Sony announced it is shifting its Spider-Man reboot to Pirates‘ July 7 date and moved its new Jumanji out of its December slot (now darkened by Star Wars) into Spider-Man‘s previous July 28 spot. In terms of how fast the Sony news was made following Episode VIII‘s move today, there’s no such thing as a coincidence: It was announced in February 2015 that Sony and Disney’s Marvel were joining forces on that Spider-Man sequel.
In addition today, Paramount swapped out Skydance’s Terminator 2 on May 19, 2017 — the weekend before Pirates 5 — with the big-screen version of TV series Baywatch. The next Terminator movie remains undated. Such are the studio maneuvers when it comes to landing highly coveted summer spots.
In regards to 20th Century Fox’s Avatar sequels, which Rupert Murdoch said would be released in December 2016, 2017 and 2018; nothing official was ever put on the release date calendar, and one insider says there aren’t any planned dates as of yet.
Except for Episode VIII, which is in a blinking contest with Ready Player One, all of the 2017 titles listed above aren’t yet facing any wide release competition on their new dates (see chart below).
Similar to what Warner Bros./New Line did with The Hobbit and Lord Of The Ring trilogies, Disney has guaranteed huge box office results over the next two year-end holidays. This December 16, the masses will be treated to the first Star Wars spinoff feature, Rogue One: A Star Wars Story, which is about a secret rebel team that steals the plans to the Death Star (which later are uploaded on R2-D2 by Princess Leia in the original 1977 film).
When Disney first decided to schedule Star Wars: The Force Awakens during the year-end holiday session, some distributors seemed concerned. Why reboot a beloved franchise that was born during the summer at a time when snow and shopping can keep audiences away? None of these factors prevented Episode VII from breaking a slew of records including three-day opening ($247.96M) and becoming the highest-grossing film at the domestic box office ($861M). It’s also the third-biggest global film ever at $1.89B. Episode VIII is being written and directed by Rian Johnson (director of Looper and key Breaking Bad episodes) and is in pre-production. Principal photography begins next month in London. Kathleen Kennedy and Ram Bergman will produce, and J.J. Abrams, Tom Karnowski, and Jason McGatlin will executive produce.
Meanwhile, the fifth Pirates Of The Caribbean movie couldn’t have a better opening date than Memorial Day weekend. The third title in the franchise, 2007’s Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End, owns the four-day holiday frame’s biggest opening ever at $139.8M (and a domestic of $309.4M and global of $963.4M), so that’s the one for this fifth-quel to beat in regards to FSSM. The franchise’s previous installment, the $1B-grossing Pirates Of The Caribbean: On Stranger Tides (2011), also debuted in late May.
In Pirates 5, Johnny Depp returns as Captain Jack Sparrow with Geoffrey Rush back on board as Barbossa, and Orlando Bloom resurfaces as Will Turner. This time there’s a terrifying new adversary: Captain Salazar, played by Javier Bardem. Produced by Jerry Bruckheimer and directed by Joachim Rønning and Espen Sandberg, Pirates 5 is in post-production.
2017 RELEASE DATE CHANGE-PALOOZA