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Boycotts, Buyouts & New Star Wars – Disney’s Busy Week, Explained

I don’t know what Rian Johnson’s new Skywalker-less Star Wars trilogy is going to be about. Those more versed in Wars lore than me, specifically Collider’s Jedi Council, speculate with 95-99% certainty it will be a prequel series set in the age of the Old Republic when the Jedi and Sith each had giant armies and waged war with one another. That could be cool. All Disney is saying is the new trilogy “will introduce new characters from a corner of the galaxy that Star Wars has never before explored.”

What I do know, however, is this: Disney’s stock value dropped 3% yesterday after CEO Bob Iger reported a 3% year-over-year decline in revenue. That very same stock jumped up 1% later in the day after LucasFilm announced not only this new Star Wars trilogy but also their intent to have a live-action Star Wars TV series ready to go on Disney’s streaming service in 2019. Because there’s always money in….


Well, I was going to say Star Wars, but, yeah, that Arrested Development moment gets what I’m going for.

Except it’s not quite that simple. The stock likely also ticked up because Iger softened the blow of the revenue report by revealing ESPN’s streaming service will launch next year and Disney’s currently unnamed streamer will arrive in 2019 with a lower price point than Netflix, at least initially. The latter will feature new original TV show incarnations of Monsters Inc., High School Musical, Star Wars (obviously), and could mark the end of the Marvel-Netflix partnership. Future Marvel shows will at least have the chance to go to Disney’s service before Netflix or elsewhere, and it’s faintly possible the older shows, i.e., Daredevil and the rest, might be yanked from Netflix and added to Disney’s catalog. Moreover, while Iger wouldn’t comment on the reports of his company’s attempted buyout of 20th Century Fox his non-comment at least keeps investors’ hopes alive since it’s better than a denial.


It’s enough to make us forget Disney recently blacklisted The Los Angeles Times for daring to investigate Disneyland’s overly generous and economically ill-advised tax breaks in Anaheim. Disney barred the LA Times’ film critic as punishment for the paper’s coverage, but when the story went national and sparked Disney boycotts by outlets like the AV Club, Washington Post, New York Times and Flavorwire the Mouse House took all of one day to reverse course and quiet the controversy.

All of that happened roughly a week after the Wall Street Journal broke the news that Disney is more or less silently mouthing “Fuck off” to all the theater owners around the country, particularly those operating in small towns, who are crying foul over the insane profits splits and contractual guarantees they’re being forced to comply with if they want to exhibit Star Wars: The Last Jedi next month. Anyone who wants in on the Last Jedi business has to give 65% of the ticket sales back to Disney (normal split is 50/50, maybe 55% studio/45% owners for really big movies) and agree to show the film in their biggest theater for four straight weeks. Happen to run a theater which only has one screen? Sucks for you. The deal is non-negotiable.

But Disney doing the Disney thing, i.e., pursuing profit with ruthless vigor, is hardly new. It’s what you expect, and on the Star Wars front, it’s long been assumed Disney would find a way to keep cranking out more product beyond the life cycle of the new trilogy. The standalone, story gap-filling adventures like Rogue One and Solo (ugh, that title) are temporary distractions to tide us over in-between Episodes 8 and 9. They’re not the long-term solution to what life will look like after the Skywalker saga is over (assuming it ever does truly end); Rian Johnson’s new trilogy, however, is. Moreover, since every new Star Wars film other than Last Jedi has been at some point regarded as a troubled production, now entrusting Johnson to shepherd a new trilogy is a clear vote for stability.


We know even less about the TV series, though. Prior to selling to Disney, LucasFilms was planning a live-action series, Star Wars: Underworld, which sounded intriguing (via Collider)…

Screenshot 2017-11-10 at 12.38.47 PM.png

…But also almost entirely redundant at this point. One of the writers revealed some of the stories would have been “how Han met Chewie, how Lando lost the Millennium Falcon,” aka, all the stuff they’re now doing in Solo. Recent mysterious IMDB listings put the show as being back in development and dated for the end of 2018, re-tooled to now focus on Bobba Fett. Could that be the series heading for Disney’s streaming service? Or would only a fool trust a random IMDB entry?

Either way, Disney has clearly decided there’s always money in Star Wars. They’ll fleece theater owners to get an ever bigger share of that money, flirt with punishing newspapers they don’t like by cutting them off from the Force (and Marvel and Pixar and everything else) and weaponize geek fandom to take on Netflix.

They’re just a big company with a lot of leverage and a perfectly exploitable asset, and we’re the fans who now get to speculate about what the future could possibly hold for this new Star Wars trilogy and TV show. Anything you want to see them try? Are you kind of not interested in Star Wars if it’s not about the Skywalkers and their various offspring? Or were you sold the moment I said: “The Old Republic”? Let me know in the comments.


  1. Germany’s small movie theatres have told Disney to f… off years ago. Around the time when Age of Ultron came out. Nowadays they go when possible for whatever alternative is available (which was in this case Fack ju Göhte 3 – which actually beat Thor in the German box office). Good for them, even if that means that I don’t get to see most Marvel movies in my favourite theatre.

    Couldn’t care less about Star Wars, but if they are smart, they go away from the Skywalker family and expand on the universe instead of constantly shrinking it.

    Apparently the rising of the stock prices when the rumors about the Fox purchase hit has ensured that the talks are on again…..I am preparing for a lot of dramatics, soon.

    1. Some of the small American theater owners interviewed by WSJ are following Germany’s lead, then, because they’re telling Disney to fuck off too. One guy, in particular, told WSJ his theater only has the one screen, and his town is so small that after 10 days everyone who wants to see Last Jedi will have seen it. Under Disney’s terms, that would leave him with 20 more days of playing the movie to an empty room, totally missing out on any of the other Christmas releases people in his town might like to see. So, it’s a no-brainer for him.

      I agree that Star Wars would benefit from expanding, not shrinking in focus, and with the stock price and neither Fox nor Disney making any public comments to put the whole thing to bed this merger talk is surely going to linger for a while until something happens or we get a definitive “it’s dead for good” (which, of course, we may never get).

  2. I saw the way the pendulum was swinging back in ’12 or ’13 when Disney destroyed the Star Wars EU. I’m no longer a star wars fan and its all thanks to Disney’s handling of the franchise…

    1. I take it then you’re not tempted by the potential of an Old Republic trilogy. That will arguably be the first thing they do, on film at least, where they are entirely branching out on their own and not simply following a story Lucas started.

      1. Nope, not at all. I’ll watch this latest star wars trilogy and some day will get around to Rogue One, but overall, my interest is just nil.

        It doesn’t help that the books from the old EU set in the Old Republic were all pretty much videogame tieins with all the issues that go along with that.

        Never been a comic fan, so I don’t really have any draw for other Star Wars eras 🙂

        All that being said, I hope you enjoy your star wars time…

      2. The Old Republic doesn’t really mean much to me either. It’s always been this thing I hear other Star Wars fans rave about, but the Knights of the Old Republic video game was XBox-exclusive and I was and remain a Playstation-only person. So, the idea sounds cool, but it holds no real sway over me.

      3. I’m not a gamer, so I’m pretty platform agnostic.
        Every couple of years I dip my toes into a game and realize, nope, still not really interested 😀

        Back to SW. I think that Disney will give it a cohesiveness that Lucas never had. He was obsessed with making it “perfect” whereas Disney wants some continuity so they can sell multi-generations. That I like. I just don’t like the handling of the EU. It felt like a great big finger after 25years of faithful reading and buying and online discussions

      4. Not a gamer either. Kinda, sorta used to be back before “gamer” was even a thing, and so many of us were just 80s kids who grew up on Nintendo/Super Nintendo and kept it up going forward with Playstation or XBox. Now, though, I pretty much just have a PS4 so my nephew can play Minecraft.

        On SW, I like what Disney has done with the franchise to this point, and I appreciate the multi-pronged approach of creating movies, videos games, comics and books which all operate in the same canon. But I get where you’re coming from. For Disney to start from a place of flipping the giant finger and wiping out, as you put it, “25 years of faithful reading and buying” understandably poisoned the well instantly for a lot of people.

  3. I think that it’s smart of them to expand on the Star Wars universe. I get it. Some people will see it as a money grab (a lot of people, probably). But, it’s the logical thing to do. There is so much that is untouched within that universe. I say go for it.

    And I have a feeling that all the Netflix/Marvel shows will be pulled from Netflix when the time comes (depending on what their contract says, obviously). It was the first thing that came to mind when they announced a streaming service. Again, though, a streaming service is another good business move. They have so much content in films alone, starting with Snow White from 1937. Add in original series in there, and they have themselves something. Plus, with the streaming service, they know exactly who they are targeting and who will pay for it: 20 and 30 somethings who grew up with these films when they dominated the most. Most of them have children of their own now. It’s a smart move, I think. Especially if they initially price it lower than Netflix.

    1. “Plus, with the streaming service, they know exactly who they are targeting and who will pay for it: 20 and 30 somethings who grew up with these films when they dominated the most. Most of them have children of their own now”

      Literally, the night before I wrote this article I watched half of Finding Dory on Netflix with my nieces and nephew. If for no other reason, I will have to subscribe to this streaming service just to retain that option in the future. All the kids in my life are so used to it now (and barely even know what a DVD or Blu-Ray is), and apart from a Trolls, Despicable Me or Secret Life of Pets all the movies they love tend to come from Disney anyway.

      So, yeah, they got me.

      “I think that it’s smart of them to expand on the Star Wars universe. I get it. Some people will see it as a money grab (a lot of people, probably). But, it’s the logical thing to do. There is so much that is untouched within that universe.”

      It’s one of those things where it’s possible for them to do something which is both a smart business move and entirely logical story move at the same time.

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