Star Wars world premieres, you will be missed.
Since blasting off Force Awakens back in December 2015, all the way through their fifth Lucasfilm production, Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker last night, it’s an understatement to say that Disney has raised the bar on the the sense of opulence and wonder in a Hollywood premiere. Their Star Wars premieres have been so much more than buffet and a movie. Yet, it stands to reason that the kingpin of theme parks and electric parades, also knows how to throw a great party.
Is there another studio in town that takes up a third of a mile stretch on Hollywood Blvd with a long tent tricked out to look like a Star Wars Imperial Destroyer with its gridiron slotted architecture? (which is what Disney did for Force Awakens and Rise of Skywalker last night). Who else puts a full scale replica of an X-Wing and Tie-Fighter in front of the Pantages Theatre (like they did in 2016’s Rogue One premiere) or a full-size AT&T and a replica of the Canto Bight casino at the L.A. Shrine? (Last Jedi premiere)? Only Disney.
Last night’s Skywalker premiere touted three X-wings, including Poe’s orange one from the new sequel, suspended at the end of their blue carpet-turned-exec VP party area. There was also a museum display of costumes from Rey, Lando, Kylo Ren and plus a stretch of glass encased stormtroopers from the series – and an army of live stormstroopers. In addition there were photo ops galore with characters and a chance for party attendees to star in a VFX scene — with stormtroopers. Juxtapose this to Force Awakens which also served up a fountain, not of water, but lightsabers moving to the Star Wars theme.
“When people walk in, they’re walking into Star Wars,” Disney President of Marketing Asad Ayaz told me giving praise to the studio’s special events guru Lylle Breier and her team who work closely with J.J. Abrams and Lucasfilm boss Kathleen Kennedy in planning the world premieres.
“The event took you back: It felt vintage Star Wars while being a celebration of the entire saga,” says Ayaz, “For these really special once in lifetime movies, we pull out all the stops to make them feel really memorable. There’s even a big fan component in cosplay; it’s a celebration of this movie and the joy it brings.”
Other studios have tried to rival the Disney premieres, i.e. Sony with its Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle faux flora and fauna Hollywood Blvd tent from two years ago and Warner Bros./Alcon’s premiere of Blade Runner 2049 which included a future urban city replica, complete with grounded flying cars. But no one is as complete in the awestruck experience as Disney. And given what we’ve seen from DC and Marvel premieres, and even the fun outdoor fair spectacle of a Despicable Me 3 premiere at the L.A. Shrine, arguably we probably won’t see another tricked out high wattage event like Rise of Skywalker until Fox/Disney’s Avatar 2 opens in Dec. 17, 2021. It’s going to be a long two years before we see a big event like the ones Disney has sprung; so start filling those aquarium-sized water tanks for the premiere tent now (Avatar 2 reportedly takes place under water with the Na’vi). Like Force Awakens the main Hollywood Blvd tent opened up to three different exits heading to one of the main three theaters: the Dolby, El Capitan and TCL Chinese. Typically studios choose one theater. Disney books three to not only accommodate the massive 42 year-old franchise’s cast (even Jar Jar Binks’ Ahmed Best was there) but other stars as well such as Amy Adams, Elizabeth Banks, Josh Gad, Spike Lee, etc.
Having amassed $4.8 billion worldwide from the last two Skywalker saga pics, Force Awakens and Last Jedi plus two spinoff movies Rogue One and Solo, the feature development plan was to spin off more origin story pics centering around classic Star Wars characters. Despite the $1.05 billion success of Rogue One, there was a fanboy divide over Last Jedi, and a hiccup with the underperformance of Solo: A Star Wars Story ($392.9M): Either fans didn’t like their Star Wars pics in overabundance (the pic was released five months after Last Jedi) or they were too precious about the pic’s casting of Alden Ehrenreich as young Solo or the firing of fan fave directors Phil Lord and Chris Miller. The Solo mishap prompted Disney to slow down the immediate development of features post Skywalker. However the recent launch of Jon Favreau’s The Mandalorian Disney+ series has restored an immense amount of clout with Star Wars fans, and judging by the response at last night’s premiere it won’t be a surprise if Skywalker over-indexes its projected $200M stateside opening.
We asked Horn for specifics on whether the origin classic character pics (like Princess Leia, or Yoda) were still in development. “We can’t discuss it, we’re in the process of figuring it out, but I feel we have some great ideas,” said Horn.
“I don’t think we plan to do like Marvel –two or three releases a year– we have to take a breath and figure it out,” Horn further adds.
Skywalker co-scribe Chris Terrio told Deadline’s Dino Ray Ramos last night that there were deliberate seeds that were planted in the ninth-quel to tease future stories.
“I am sure they will find little seeds of different things in this film that will suggest other parts of the galaxy where we might go,” Terrio told Ramos. “There’s no specific plan, but when we watch the movie, sometimes there are scenes where you think ‘I might want to spend more time in that world’.”