Box Office

Box Office: How Low Is Too Low for Solo: A Star Wars Story?

Let me be the first to say the following about Solo: A Star Wars Story’s box office: I’ve got a bad feeling about this.

Ah, classic movie quote.

[Leaves to check the rest of the internet]

Son of a bitch! Everyone’s already made that joke? Really? Fine, then let me say this about Solo: A Star Wars Story’s box office: “Rubber baby buggie bumpers!” That’s right – y’all are quoting A New Hope. Well, I just quoted Last Action Hero! Top that, internet.

Wait. What was I talking about?

Oh, right. Right, right, right. So, as of this writing at both the domestic and worldwide box office Solo’s, um, what’s the nice way of putting it – it’s tanking. Crashing. Bombing. A real belly flop. I mean, there’s the Hindenburg, there’s Black Monday, and then there’s Solo’s box office. Historically bad, is what I’m saying. Everyone at LucasFilm and Disney who worked on Solo, either on the actual production or marketing and distribution end, has brought great dishonor to their family for their association with a flop of such epic proportions….

Via THR

What the shit! $101 million still sounds like a lot of money to me. That registers as one of the top 10 openings in Memorial Day history, unadjusted for inflation, of course. So, why is the internet crying foul?

-Because Solo was supposed to make $150 million, according to pre-release tracking.

-Because even though Disney isn’t releasing an official production budget it’s thought the reshoots pushed the budget to around $250 million, and they likely spent at least another $100 million on marketing.

-Because this is a 25% decrease from Disney’s prior low-water mark for Star Wars opening weekends, specifically Rogue One’s $155m two years ago.

-Because it’s one of the lowest openings for any Star Wars movie ever, even before you adjust for inflation.

-Because in addition to the domestic underperformance Solo is also falling flat internationally, taking in a dismal $65 million from pretty much everywhere other than Japan for a global launch of just $148.3 million.

-Because it truly is bombing in China with an opening weekend of $10.1m. Granted, China has never warmed to Star Wars, but the second biggest film market in the world is flat out rejecting Solo, delivering it an opening 69% lower than Last Jedi’s and 71% below Rogue One’s. The box office security blanket that is China clearly isn’t going to save Solo.

-Because, as a movie, Solo just isn’t good enough. Read my review.

We’ve seen this story play out countless times by now. Whenever a film becomes rather well-known as a troubled production – looking at you, Suicide Squad – there’s extra attention paid to the box office. We all know the studio paid out the ass just get the damn film finished and out on time which pushes the break-even point even higher and naturally increases the chances of public failure. Half the time, a Titanic happens and all of the pre-release pessimism and hand wringing is for naught. The other half of the time, a box office car crash takes place and we can’t look away.

In Solo’s case, we’ve seen enough to know that a movie carrying a $250m budget needs to do a heck of a lot better than $101m on its opening weekend, especially when it comes from a franchise which has always run stronger domestically than internationally. As Forbes currently forecasts, “If Solo plays like a “normal” Memorial Day release, after this debut we’re looking at a final domestic total of around $200-$225m. So, yes, considering the additional expenses incurred by the reshoots and the likely lack of overseas rescue that would make for a $700m global cume, tops and only if they’re really lucky, meaning the odds are pretty grim for this Star Wars story.”

Remember, Suicide Squad carried an official production budget of $175m and was said to need to hit $750m-$800m worldwide just to break even, which it almost did, finishing at $746m. Well, Solo cost quite a bit more, and it’s on pace to make even less than Suicide Squad. Ruh-roh.

We’ve known this was coming, though. A production insider told ScreenGreek back in December: “Disney is bracing themselves for the Han Solo movie to bomb. They were worried about it before all The Last Jedi controversy, but now they’re essentially writing Solo off. The lead actor, Alden Ehrenreich, can’t act, and they had a dialogue coach on hand for all of his scenes. On top of that, the script is unworkable. It’s going to be a car crash.”

As always, such anonymous insider accounts should be met with a healthy degree of skepticism, but rumors like that paired with Disney’s curiously restrained Solo marketing definitely gave the impression of a studio looking to make the best of a bad situation instead of actually pushing something it believed in. The rest of the industry saw that and smelled blood in the water, thus Deadpool 2 moving to the week before Solo. The other competitors weren’t crazy enough to challenge both Deadpool 2 AND Solo, which is why Solo is the only new wide releae this weekend. The option was always there for Disney to just push Solo back to Christmas and abandon its always-boneheaded idea to open a new Star Wars movie just 5 months after the last (very controversial) one, but Disney opted to stick with Mary Poppins Returns as its big Christmas push, leaving Solo to sink or swim in a crowded market.

Beyond that, Solo has always faced an uphill battle, as Forbes explained:

The idea of a young Han Solo movie was always both not-terribly exciting to fans and counterintuitive to the promise of Walt Disney making new Star Wars movies and especially stand-alone Star Wars spin-offs. The idea was for new/interesting directors to play in the Star Wars sandbox, not for an elder statesmen director like (all due respect) Ron Howard to direct a Han Solo prequel flick. Fair or not, the firing of Phil Lord and Chris Miller dampened much of what enthusiasm remained for this cynical/irrelevant project. Even though it’s a pretty good movie, the reviews were merely okay and it wasn’t an event. It was surrounded by genuine event movies, including a Disney giant (Avengers: Infinity War and Incredibles 2) on each side.

Circling back to the question I posed in the title of this article, how low is too low for Solo? Everything it’s currently doing and will most likely continue to do is significantly too low, given its budget. Every Disney Star Wars movie to this point has cracked a billion worldwide. Solo’s instead looking at Suicide Squad numbers as an absolute best-case scenario, and over-quoted or not that should give everyone a bad feeling about this.

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14 comments

  1. This was to be expected, though…Disney’s big push to make Star Wars popular in China failed, and there is only so far one can ride on a nostalgia wave, as Warner Bros has just proven with Justice League.

    I am mostly confused why the tracking was so far off, and what the supposedly high pre-sales were about when so many people said “yeah, but when I bought my ticket, the theatre was still shown as nearly empty”.

    1. The tracking has been broken for years now. I barely pay attention to it anymore. Far too often, we allow the tracking to frame the box office narrative event though it’s always based on faulty data.

      https://weminoredinfilm.com/2016/03/01/the-pre-release-ticket-tracking-is-usually-wrong-a-recent-history-of-misleading-projections/

      That being said, I know that since I last wrote about pre-release tracking the companies charged with providing that kind of data have moved beyond cold-calling potential moviegoers and tracking more datapoints, like IMDB movie page activity, Fandango pre-sales, and others to provide a more accurate picture. Since I don’t really pay attention to the tracking figures anymore I can’t say if their efforts have improved their accuracy, on average, but being around $50 million off about Solo shows they can still fuck things up pretty royally. My guess would be they placed too much weight on Fandango pre-sales and mistook the fanboy effect for how the general public would behave, but I don’t really know without looking into it further. Plus, I don’t know if the oft-quoted $150m figure came before or after Deadpool 2’s release date change. I feel like it came after, which would make things even worse.

      I know Deadpool 2’s R-Rated and not the family film that Solo is, but Deadpool 2’s marketing has been so all-encompassing that tons of kids are aware of it and want to see it, leading plenty of either clueless or very liberal parents to take their kids to it instead of Solo. I was just at a Deadpool 2 screening last night and I was stunned to see how many pre-teens were there with their parents.

    2. It still falls back to the need for very good and interesting story telling. And, of course, quality acting, directing, and cinematography. It really does seem like Hollywood thinks people will come see a movie for nostalgia alone. I’m really glad they’re being proven wrong.

      1. I’ve been giving this more thought and I’ve come to the conclusion that there really wasn’t a compelling reason for a young Solo movie. As fascinating a character as Han Solo is, we like to see growth and meaning in our movies.

        When we met Han in A New Hope he was an actual bad guy. Not a hero. A criminal. It was the influence of Luke and Leia that transformed him from rogue to hero.

        So, what are we supposed to see in a young Solo movie? His conversion from a young bad guy to an older bad guy? His journey from nobody to criminal? What’s the journey we’re supposed to be invested in?

      2. Exactly. Even if they show how Han ended up the cynical a-hole he was in A New Hope, who the heck even cares?

        I never understood how the Star Wars universe could be so, well, small.

      3. Yeah, nobody was clamoring for a Solo movie! I know I wasn’t, and this is exactly why. The most important part of his story has already been told. Now if they’d told the story of his fall into criminality it might have been interesting. (I say might.)

        There are people who are clamoring for a Lando story though, because so little is known about that character’s history, and how he got to be who he was. I’d be interested in it myself.

        And yes, the lead actor was a lot less compelling than Disney seemed to think he was. (Good gob he’s awful!) personally, I’d watch a whole movie about Chewbacca. He was the better actor!

      4. I was actually excited for a Solo movie — but I hadn’t really thought about the pointlessness of it until today. Even still, I think it could have been a fun movie to watch if:

        * It had a compelling story
        * It had a better actor who could channel Harrison Ford
        * Maybe if it had offered some interesting insights into the positives of what the Empire was doing as well as how damaging and frightening it was.
        * And maybe if we saw an idealistic Han get beaten down by life so badly he became the cynical criminal we met in A New Hope, but shows us there was always good in him. Just buried.

        I haven’t seen it yet. I’ll wait for the DVD.

      5. “And maybe if we saw an idealistic Han get beaten down by life so badly he became the cynical criminal we met in A New Hope, but shows us there was always good in him. Just buried.”

        They kinda, sorta try to do that, but it doesn’t really work all that well.

  2. I saw Alden in “Beautiful Creatures” and was struck at how small his emotional range seemed to be, so I was shocked to discover he’d been chosen to play a young Han Solo. When I saw pics of him in make up and costume, I thought maybe he’d work out. But after watching previews I felt zero excitement for this movie — and I really like Star Wars (though I’m in the camp that feels they ruined Star Wars after the original trilogy).

    I’ll wait for the DVD.

    I really liked the idea of a young Han Solo, but it needed a compelling story and it doesn’t appear it got one.

    I also don’t care for Glover.

    And I just can’t see Woody Harrolson as ever being the mentor that inspired Han Solo.

    I’m bummed. I wanted this to be great.

  3. I dont know anyone who was exited about this film coming out. Not like other star wars properties. Oooh Solo when he was young. Must watch that. I bet all the people complaining of Harrison Ford playing Indy yet again will quieten down now given the lightening in the bottle charisma of HF compared to modern day leads. Having said that I still cant get over the whole hide in a fridge scene and the crystal skull which looks like something you would pick up at your local TK Maxx.

    1. Wasn’t the fridge scene one of those old ideas they’d wanted to use in one if not several of the prior Indy movies? Yeaaaahhhh…it should have stayed unused.

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