It's usually not a good sign when a movie studio bumps a highly anticipated movie to a later release date, but let's give The Walt Disney Company (NYSE:DIS) a break here.
Disney revealed on Wednesday that the eighth installment in the Star Wars franchise will be released in December 2017. It was originally slated to open seven months earlier for the Memorial Day holiday.
Disney is no stranger to moving theatrical releases around, and the results have been mixed. November's The Good Dinosaur was originally supposed to hit a multiplex near you a year earlier. It turned out to be a disappointment at the box office, at least by Pixar's historical standards.
On the other hand we have Star Wars: The Force Awakens. Disney executives wanted to put it out ahead of the 2015 summer season. The folks working on the movie wanted to wait until the summer of 2016, giving them more time to get it right. The two sides split the difference, and last month's release is now the highest grossing movie of all-time.
Some folks will understandably get nervous about a delay, but let's go over two big reasons why putting it out seven months later is no big deal.
1. December is when blockbusters are born
Studios tend to push out their more promising action movies in late May or early summer, hoping to cash in on the idle time that the summer holiday creates for folks out of school. However, with so many studios angling for big bucks, it can get pretty crowded.
December is kinder. Many studios are busy cranking out artsy fare, the kind of stuff that can win Oscars. It makes sense then to release these films by year's end so they qualify for the Academy Awards while they are still fresh in the minds of critics and viewers.
However, December served Star Wars: The Force Awakens pretty well. In fact, the last two movies it passed in becoming the highest-grossing film of all time -- Avatar and Titanic -- were released in December. Yes, the three top box office draws in this country were all released in mid-December.
Star Wars: Episode VIII -- or whatever it winds up being called -- is going to be a hit no matter when it comes out. Settling on the month that has delivered the three biggest financial successes makes it just that much more likely to break the recently broken records.
2. Star Wars Land will take time to build
Disney hasn't given a firm date on when the ambitious 14-acre Star Wars Land additions will open at Disneyland in California and Disney's Hollywood Studios in Florida. However, it recently closed many of the attractions residing on the land where the new themed areas will open. The consensus when Disney made its summertime expansion announcement was that it would be several years before we get to pilot the Millennium Falcon and check out other experiences. However, if Disney is closing stuff now, we could be looking at Star Wars Land opening as early as 2018. Some parts may even be open sooner.
All of this dovetails perfectly with releasing the next installment at the end of next year instead of in the middle of it. It will be easier to promote Star Wars Land that way -- not that it's going to need much to get folks to pile into Disney's theme parks.
The seven months will go quickly. Disney's doing the right thing.