Why is Solo’s Box Office So Low?

Solo's Alden Ehrenreich

Solo’s Alden Ehrenreich

Solo: A Star Wars Story director Ron Howard recently tweeted his thoughts on the film’s disappointing box office.

One would think that Solo is a film tailor-made for fans of the iconic space opera franchise. The story explores the early days of classic rogue Han Solo. Playing the scruffy-looking nerf herder is Alden Ehrenreich, who is joined on-screen by a killer’s row of talent including Emilia Clarke, Woody Harrelson, and Donald Glover.

Below is a brief history of Solo: A Star Wars Story, offering insight as to why the film might have disappointed at the box office.

Solo’s Early Production

In 2015, Lucasfilm announced that director duo Phil Lord and Christopher Miller would direct the Han Solo standalone film. Lord and Miller had previously directed The Lego Movie and both installments of the 21 Jump Street franchise. The pair had developed a bit of a reputation for taking questionable premises and churning out comedic gold, something the duo even mentioned in their official statement.

“This is the first film we’ve worked on that seems like a good idea to begin with. We promise to take risks, to give the audience a fresh experience, and we pledge ourselves to be faithful stewards of these characters who mean so much to us.”

Lucasfilm enlisted the help of veteran screenwriter Lawrence Kasdan and his son Jon. Kasdan was the screenwriter behind two of the franchise’s most notable entries, The Empire Strikes Back and The Force AwakensWith a pair of exciting filmmakers and a legacy screenwriter, the stars seemed to line up for the much-anticipated project. 

Directors Phil Lord and Christopher Miller with the Cast of Solo: A Star Wars Story

Directors Phil Lord and Christopher Miller with the Cast of Solo: A Star Wars Story

Slight Snafu

In June of 2017, 2 years after Lord and Miller were first announced for the Han Solo prequel, president of Lucasfilm Kathleen Kennedy released an unanticipated statement.

“Phil Lord and Christopher Miller are talented filmmakers who have assembled an incredible cast and crew, but it’s become clear that we had different creative visions on this film, and we’ve decided to part ways. A new director will be announced soon.”

Following the announcement, there was speculation that the split was less than amicable. Numerous outlets speculated that the director’s improvisational style of directing clashed with others on set, notably screenwriter Lawrence Kasdan. The shift in directors implied an executive fear of harming the Star Wars brand, a justified response after the divisive response to the franchise’s previous release, The Last Jedi.

Welcome Aboard Mr. Howard

By the time of Lord and Miller’s firing, the film had been shooting for 4 months and was approaching the end of principal photography. Academy-award winning director Ron Howard was quickly added as a replacement. Having directed Lucasfilm’s 1988 fantasy epic Willow, and even being offered to direct Star Wars Episode 1: The Phantom Menace, Howard’s hiring was a logical decision.

In October of 2017, Ron Howard had been on the film for 4 months. Fans were finally given the title Solo: A Star Wars Story. Howard’s work on the film was extensive, with some outlets reporting he directed as much as 70% of the final film.

Rushed Marketing

The first trailer for Solo was released on February 5th, 2018, after having been teased at Superbowl LII. This was four short months before its release. For context, the previous stand-alone film, Rogue One: A Star Wars Story, previewed its first trailer 8 months before it was released. The Force Awakens dropping its first trailer 14 months before its eventual release. Disney’s other Star Wars films had time to produce hype, a luxury Solo did not have. 

Granted, an early trailer doesn’t guarantee audience excitement. The product is the always the most important element of success. However, the importance of timing cannot be understated. Rogue One had the benefit of following The Force Awakens, as excitement for the latter film helped Rogue One make over $1 billion at the box office.

Ultimately, Lucasfilm had 4 months to introduce audiences to Solo: A Star Wars Story. In hindsight, the company’s uphill battle to get Solo in the cultural consciousness may have always been futile. 

Solo’s Memorial Day Weekend

The summer movie season still has the greatest concentration of big-budget spectacles in the year.

Solo: A Star Wars Story released on May 25th, 2018, Memorial Day weekend. However, the saturation of summer blockbusters in May proved to be more overwhelming than initially anticipated. Preceding the film was the release of two major franchise films, Avengers: Infinity War and Deadpool 2.

Solo opened at the top of its 4-day weekend to the tune of about $103 million, a stark difference from the $170 million box office that had been projected earlier that month. Without the Memorial Day boost, the film would have only opened to about $84 million.

Meanwhile, Infinity War and Deadpool 2 both managed to have legs during that Memorial Day weekend. Of the top five films released, the four movies following Solo hauled a combined total of just under $100 million. People were eager to go out the movies that day, just not to see Solo.

The disappointing box office for Solo: A Star Wars Story has extended to its subsequent weekends as well. As of this writing, the film has earned a domestic total of $176 million dollars. Considering the film’s suspected budget of over $250 million, those aren’t promising numbers.

Director Ron Howard and the Cast of Solo: A Star Wars Story

Director Ron Howard and the cast of Solo: A Star Wars Story

“Never tell me the odds!”

Solo: A Star Wars Story is not a disaster. It’s just a disappointment. The film has underperformed, but it’s opening weekend gross still managed to snag the 4th best opening weekend of 2018. Perhaps more importantly, the film has resonated with audiences and critics alike. On Rotten Tomatoes, the film currently holds a 71% approval rating with critics and a 65% approval rating with audiences.

The previous entry in the Star Wars franchise, The Last Jedi, resonated with critics but divided fans. It earned a paltry 46% approval rating from fans on Rotten Tomatoes. Even so, the film managed to make a domestic gross of $620 million and an international gross of $1.33 billion.

When you’re Disney, you can afford at least one dud at the box office. Solo: A Star Wars Story represents a lesson as old as the movies themselves. Audiences just won’t buy see films they’re skeptical of. 

 by Eduardo Vaca




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7 Responses to “Why is Solo’s Box Office So Low?”

  1. Aaron M Says:

    June 12th, 2018 at 3:19 pm

    The thing with prequels is every time your leads are put in a dramatic situation or a moment of peril, the fans already know they survive so there is no real drama unless you REALLY want to suspend your disbelief. Movie would have to be spectacular beyond belief to be a hit without real drama.

  2. Weylan McAnally Says:

    June 12th, 2018 at 3:25 pm

    My take is that Kennedy had a vision that was out of step with the fan base. Kennedy ran off the original directors because their vision conflicted with hers.
    The folks that I know who have seen the movie saw references to current political and social issues which have no real place in the Star Wars stories. Star Wars fans have no desire to be bludgeoned by any current philosophical or political outlook. They want good guys in white and bad guys in black. They want good versus evil. Politics and social issues have a place outside the movie theater.

  3. Dominic Steven Matich Says:

    June 12th, 2018 at 3:27 pm

    Solo’s box office is SOLO because fans like me boycotted it after Kathleen Kenndey and Rian Johnson ruined The Last Jedi then went after fans who didn’t like it.

  4. Jenny Says:

    June 12th, 2018 at 3:39 pm

    While I think this was a good analysis, from my personal experience, no one I know, including my nerdy, geeky, Star Wars loving friends, was even remotely excited about this film (the exception being that everyone was stoked about Donald Glover as Lando, because, he’s amazing and he nailed it). It featured the cliche line “I’m putting together a team,” which just tells you that you’ve seen this story before 100 times and nothing new is being brought to the table. Let’s just call “Solo” for what it was, an obvious cash grab that audiences either didn’t want or saw right through.

  5. Leigh Says:

    June 12th, 2018 at 4:03 pm

    Why is solo’s box office so low? Well, I love the Star Wars franchise and I can say it on one word, casting. I usually head to the movies for any Star Wars movie but when I saw the images of the young solo actor I was out. And so that means I’m not bringing my husband and my son. No offense to Alden, but he doesn’t look like or personify the Han Solo I know and love.

  6. Kim Says:

    June 12th, 2018 at 7:42 pm

    Leigh is absolutely right! CASTING! Young Solo doesn’t have the rogue charisma like Harrison Ford’s characterization. I’m sure Alden E is a nice, talented young man. Just so not right for this role. The face of this movie is key and casting dropped the ball. First impressions are so important. Love Ron Howard but won’t see this movie.

  7. Jennifer Lamar Says:

    June 21st, 2018 at 8:46 am

    Everything discussed regarding Solo’s poor performance may have some truth to it, however, as this is a script writing competition I am surprised that we aren’t discussing the obvious: THERE WAS NO STORY!!!
    Solo is simply a string of contrived events to serve as introduction to the original characters and a few new ones. There is no compelling story. Hence, there is no emotional connection with the audience, hence, there is no emotional response from the audience, ie: word of mouth.

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