Bob Iger needs to fix Disney's 'Star Wars' problem
- Bob Iger was named Disney CEO, returning to the role he left in early 2020.
- His biggest creative priority should be getting "Star Wars" movies on track.
Now that Bob Iger is once again CEO of Disney, one of his first moves could be to revive the flagging "Star Wars" franchise where it's flourished in television productions but has languished on the big screen.
Iger returns to a company that has a stock price down nearly 40% over the past year. Getting Disney back on financial track will be his job No. 1. That's where "Star Wars" can come in.
In 2018, Iger said that fans could expect "some slowdown" in film releases. He said then that a movie-a-year strategy for "Star Wars" was "too much, too fast."
But Disney might have slammed on the brakes a little too hard: The only "Star Wars" movie to be released since then has been "Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker," in 2019. And now, there isn't a "Star Wars" film on the theatrical release calendar until 2025. No details have been revealed.
There have, however, been plenty of Disney+ TV "Star Wars"-themed shows. From "The Mandalorian" to most recently "Andor," the franchise is alive and well, just on the small screen.
Disney+ was a bright spot for the company during the pandemic, when its other business sectors were challenged. The service has grown into a legitimate streaming heavy hitter to rival Netflix, thanks in large part to its popular assets like "Star Wars."
But Wall Street isn't satisfied with Disney's streaming growth anymore. And Disney revealed in its earnings last week that its streaming business lost $1.5 billion in the most recent quarter.
"Star Wars," though, could be easy money on the big screen. It's stunning that a franchise has seemingly stalled that produced four movies that grossed more than $1 billion each at the worldwide box office over a four-year span.
It's unclear if Iger foresaw a six-year wait, at least, when he said back in 2018 that "Star Wars" movie output would slow. And he inherits many of the same issues the franchise had when he departed, particularly an apparently revolving door of creatives and a lack of direction for the franchise.
But given his experience, he's probably the best person to set the franchise on a clearer path. After all, Iger's passion is on the creative side of the things; when he handed the CEO role to Bob Chapek in early 2020, he remained temporarily as executive chairman to focus on just that.
Meanwhile, Puck's Matthew Belloni reported earlier this year that Lucasfilm, the Disney-owned studio behind the franchise, is shrouded by a "culture of fear and indecision around the next installment," largely due to how the sequel trilogy was rushed to meet deadlines.
The studio doesn't seem to be in short supply of options, though.
There are several "Star Wars" projects in development from different parties — including HBO's "Watchmen" creator Damon Lindelof, "Free Guy" director Shawn Levy, and "Wonder Woman" director Patty Jenkins. But Lucasfilm hasn't made any public commitment to any of them as the next stage of "Star Wars" on the big screen.
Lucasfilm president Kathleen Kennedy has only made vague comments. In an interview with Vanity Fair earlier this year, she teased that the franchise would move away from trilogies, saying that "Star Wars" is "much more about persistent storytelling."
Jenkins' "Rogue Squadron" was originally set for 2023, but that's on the backburner. So is a planned trilogy from "The Last Jedi" director Rian Johnson, originally announced in 2017, which he recently said he still hopes to make. And then there's a movie from "Thor: Love and Thunder" director Taika Waititi, of which nothing has been mentioned since it was first announced in 2018.
Needless to say, Iger has a lot to sort through in a galaxy far, far away.
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