Samuel Brace on Solo: A Star Wars Story and what will constitute success and failure for the Anthology movie…
After all the talk, after all the gossip, calumny, hope and despair, Solo: A Star Wars Story is oh so nearly upon us. No matter if you wanted it not, Solo is on its way. The change in directors, the extensive reshoots, are all now in the past, and with just three short weeks left until release, we can start thinking about how this much discussed and prematurely criticised film will be received. Of course, personal taste counts for a lot, no one can tell you to enjoy a film or not, but there is indeed a useful barometer for gauging a film’s success, that, of course, being the box office. So, in the countdown to the film’s arrival, the idea of which fans can’t seem to make up their mind about, let’s try and foreshadow a little the numbers to expect, to hope for, and to fear, adumbrating its run and all that is to come. Let’s have a little look at what will constitute success and failure for Solo: A Star Wars Story.
One might assume that because this is a Star Wars film, the movie will reap remarkable numbers, and while this may have been the case in the past, this would be a mistaken assumption today. No such confidence, I’m afraid, is safely warranted. You see, Solo arrives not just at an interesting time for the Star Wars franchise but at an interesting time in the movie landscape. While Star Wars: The Last Jedi – the sequel to the highest grossing domestic film in history – was indeed a hit and verified financial win, it wasn’t quite the box office breaker that people were expecting – at least in the context of The Force Awakens. Despite rave reviews and much hype, The Last Jedi couldn’t match what came before in terms of dollars earned, falling below high expectations and contemporaneous hits, mostly because fans were passionately divided on either loving the film or vehemently despising it. The reaction to The Last Jedi was censorious, to say the least, but the effects were felt none the less. As a result, Solo won’t be birthed into an environment afforded to Rogue One, the other anthology movie in the franchise, and ipso facto the young adventures of Han has its work cut out for it – Ron Howard’s movie, quite clearly, doesn’t have an automatic path to $500 million domestic.
As alluded to in the words above, the Star Wars movie landscape isn’t the only other factor at play or hindrance to Solo’s success. This spring and the summer to come is crammed with blockbuster content, all of which will inevitably draw attention, mental bandwidth, and important box office dollars away from Solo. After only just recovering from the surprise juggernaut that was Black Panther – a film which has so far made $690 million domestically and $1.3 billion worldwide – we’ve now landed in the midst of another box office massacre, this time at the hands of Avengers: Infinity War, a movie that is breaking records left, right, and centre, and one that will likely crack the very rare $700 million mark at home and God knows what abroad. It doesn’t stop there, however, as Deadpool 2, all though R-rated, drops a week before Solo and will surely collect vast quantities of cash itself. Less than a month after Solo, Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom will emerge onto the scene, and if it gets anywhere near its predecessor ($650 million domestic and $1.6 billion global) it will certainly hinder the latter progress of Solo’s run. The only thing going in the next Star Wars film’s favour is that audiences of late have shown a surprising willingness to continually part with their cash on a frequent basis – if the films offered up to them are appealing, marketed well, and talked of fondly, they will show up come movie night.
It seems to me rather clear that audiences will indeed show up for Solo, but the question is to what degree they will do so. The film lands on a four day weekend in the US (which is a nice boost) and is being predicted to collect somewhere around $170 million over that period. To put that in context, Rogue One (the most obvious comparison to make) made $172 million over its first four days. Unfortunately, I would imagine, matching Rouge One at home or aboard will be a step too far for Solo when it’s all said and done. With a favourable December release, Rogue One achieved a mighty $532 million in the US and just over $1 billion worldwide – those two highly sought after milestones will quite likely be a little too far out of reach for Solo given the multifarious circumstances already discussed. It also doesn’t help that Star Wars is proving to be less and less of a hit in China (a huge weakness for any box office hopeful). So, what will constitute success for Solo in its home market? Well, assuming reviews are solid (65 – 70 Metacritic for example) and word of mouth is positive, I would postulate that Lucasfilm will be satiated with $350 million (more than Guardians of the Galaxy and Spider-Man: Homecoming), disappointed with $300 million, and very pleased with $400 million (a stone’s throw away from the likes of Captain America: Civil War and Wonder Woman). Anything above that will be music to Disney’s ears indeed.
So, if those rooting for Solo’s success domestically know to be fearful of $300 million and below, content with $350 million, and delighted with $400 million, what should they be looking for in the global marketplace? What will constitute success and failure financially for Solo when tallying the world’s collective hauls? Well, if we go by the figures suggested in the US, I would imagine that falling below $700 million (somewhere between Doctor Strange and It) would have the stench of failure, and would be a tally to avoid. Adding another $50 million for a total of $750 million would be Solo’s happy medium (putting it in the sphere of The Amazing Spider-Man and The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 1). But for Lucasfilm and those involved with Solo to come away from this endeavour with triumphant swagger, Han’s anthology movie will need to garner, in my humble opinion, $800 million. If it hits this mark, toothy grins will be worn by all and such a figure would ensure Solo has bested the likes of Guardians of the Galaxy and Deadpool. Anything above $800 million, marching towards $900 million, will be a bonus, and if by some force of nature, all the stars align and Solo is lauded as the greatest Star Wars movie ever, pushing it anywhere near that $1 billion mark of Rogue One, well… Lucasfilm will be feeling rather invincible – and likely quite bullish with their future endeavours.
So, there you have it. It appears to me rather clear what the targets should be for Solo, what numbers to fear both at home and abroad and what numbers will cause febrile vibrations among the staff at Lucasfilm’s offices. Of course, there are myriad factors at play, much can go wrong and much can go right. If pre-sales are anything to go by (which are double that of Black Panther), the early stages of Solo’s box office career could be impressive indeed but with such a fierce line up of competitors waiting in the wings and an unpredictable Star Wars fan base, it’s all mightily nebulous. We will have to wait and see, but I hope the above has helped those interested in such things to obtain a little clearer image of what to expect. Solo isn’t going to do Last Jedi numbers, it isn’t, in all likelihood going to match Rogue One, but if audiences give it the thumbs up, without becoming rhapsodic in their love for the film, a very nice haul could be there for the taking.