There are those in the Star Wars fan community who claim that Lucasfilm president Kathleen Kennedy has “ruined” Star Wars, and some of those voices have been calling for her to be replaced by Marvel Studios’ Kevin Feige. They seem to think that (among other things) Feige can do no wrong, and Kennedy has pushed a feminist agenda that has killed “their” Star Wars. They further believe that Kennedy (one of the most successful film producers in the history of Hollywood) is inept and that she needs to retire or be fired. Additionally, many of them take credit for Solo: A Star Wars Story under-performing at the box office, claiming their boycott of the film killed it.
Well, let’s compare apples to apples then, shall we? Solo: A Star Wars Story recently left theaters (in fact, it’s still playing in a 2nd run theater in my town), while Marvel’s latest film, Ant-man and the Wasp, is currently in theaters. If you consider the idea that everything Feige touches turns to gold, then it should be a no-brainer that Ant-man and the Wasp would out-perform Solo: A Star Wars Story at the box office. Here’s the plot twist: It’s not.
Comparing domestic box office numbers, our favorite scoundrel has outgunned Ant-Man. Comparing opening weekends, Solo had a weekend take of $103,016,812 (not including Memorial Day), where Ant-Man had an opening weekend of $75,812,205. That’s $27 million in Solo‘s favor.
Both films suffered significant drops their second weekend, with Solo dropping 65.2% to $29,396,882, and Ant-Man dropping 61.6% to bring home $29,097,859… about $299,000 again in favor of the smuggler from a galaxy far, far away.
To acknowledge international box office, after 3 weekends Solo had a combined box office total of about $313 million, while Ant-Man and the Wasp‘s total for the same length of time is about $354 million. Ant-Man is doing better internationally, but not astoundingly so (although it hasn’t opened in China yet).
At the time of this writing, Ant-Man has been in theaters for 20 days, with a total domestic box-office take of $172,864,858. 20 days into its run, Solo had pulled in $182,386,562 domestically. That’s $9,820,727 in Solo‘s favor. That’s not huge, but it’s enough to illustrate that perhaps Solo’s “underperformance” has nothing to do with a phantom boycott, Kathleen Kennedy’s ineptitude, or a “feminist agenda” and more to do with the fact that there are just too many “big summer blockbuster” movies for the public to deal with. At an average ticket price of $9.16 (up 4% from last year), perhaps American movie-goers’ wallets are getting tired. Solo premiered just 5 months after The Last Jedi, while Ant-Man and the Wasp was released a mere 10 weeks after Avengers: Infinity War (in fact, Infinity War was still in 506 domestic theaters that week). Throw in the fact that at the same time, Deadpool 2, Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom, Incredibles 2, Hotel Transylvania 3, and Ocean’s 8 were either in theaters or releasing soon, and you have box office overload.
I’m not saying there haven’t been missteps at Lucasfilm. The day they announced Lord and Miller as the directors for Solo, I felt it was a mistake (my brother and I even had a conversation about it). I felt that a team of directors who are known for making a tongue-in-cheek reboot of a serious TV series (while seemingly not taking the source material seriously) was the wrong choice for a film about Han Solo’s origin. Turns out I was right. Hiring Lord and Miller was Kennedy’s mistake here, and, unfortunately, it took so long for Lucasfilm/Disney to figure it out that they ended up reshooting a huge portion of the film, which sent the budget into orbit. That’s going to end up causing Solo to lose about $50 million. The good news here is that Kennedy and company made the right decision and fired Lord and Miller – knowing full-well that it would push Solo way over-budget – in order to deliver the best film they could… instead of just pushing forward and finishing it. While it all sounds like a huge financial mistake, the four Star Wars films produced thus-far under Kennedy have made a combined worldwide total of $4,845,186,702. That’s an average of $1.2 billion per film.
Production budgets for The Last Jedi and Solo aren’t available on boxofficemojo.com, but estimating a production budget of $250 million for The Last Jedi and $250-300 million for Solo (That’s a wild guess, based on the rumored reshoots), the combined total production budget for the four films is around $900 million – $1 billion (TFA $245m, Rogue One $200m). Combined merchandising and licensing fees, that puts Disney very close (about $350 million) to recovering the $4.2 billion they invested by purchasing Lucasfilm (not to mention toy and collectible sales, home video releases, TV rights, etc). Don’t forget: Disney didn’t just buy Star Wars, they bought Lucasfilm lock, stock, and barrel. That means not just Star Wars, but all other LFL properties including Indiana Jones as well as the other LFL companies such as Industrial Light & Magic and Skywalker Sound – both of which do work outside of Lucasfilm properties – which generates revenue.
Obviously, the trend of Star Wars movies losing money at the box office can’t continue, but an average of $1.2 billion per movie isn’t something that’s going to get ANYONE fired.