EDITORIAL: Why Did “Solo: A Star Wars Story” Bomb At The Box Office?

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Who would have thought that Solo: A Star Wars Story would do so poorly at the box office? I think most people did, and maybe Disney and Lucasfilm did too, but of course they weren’t saying it publicly!

Currently, Solo has earned a total of $168 million at the worldwide box office. It debuted this weekend with only $103 million in the US. That amount came in far below the projected estimates for Solo, which went as high as $150 million for the opening weekend. Matters were even worse overseas where Solo pulled in a dismal $65 million. Let’s compare those amounts to The Force Awakens, where it made $248 million domestically, and $281 million globally during its opening weekend. That is a bit of an unfair comparison because the hype was insane back when The Force Awakens was released. OK, let’s compare Solo to Rogue One, which was the first Star Wars spin off movie. Back when Rogue One was released in 2016, it made $155 million in its opening weekend in the United States. Overseas, Rogue made $135 million. Also, take into consideration that Solo’s numbers include an extra day for the Memorial Day Weekend, where the other Star Wars movies did not.

No one knows for sure exactly how much Solo cost to make, especially since there were extensive reshoots that were rumored to account for a large portion of the actual movie. But most estimates have the cost coming in at around $400 million, which reflects the budget and cost for marketing. Solo could still find life when it is released on home video, but still this is seen as a massive failure.

So why did Solo fail so badly at the box office?

Here are my top reasons why I think Solo failed:

  1. No one wanted a Star Wars movie based completely on Han Solo – Star Wars has always been a worldwide phenomenon. It is a part of our culture and it eventually captured the world’s heart. When Disney acquired the Star Wars franchise, most people were beyond excited to hear the announcements of a new trilogy that would take place after Return Of The Jedi. We were finally getting an Episode VII after almost 30 years. What happened to Luke, Leia and Han? Did any of them have children? Did those children go on to become Jedi or maybe even Sith? The announcement of a movie based on a young Han Solo, before he met Luke, Leia and Darth Vader, really did not interest the general public or Star Wars fans. I have yet to meet anyone, or even read about someone, that was dying to see the origins of Han Solo on screen. Why not have a movie based on a young Luke working on his uncle’s moisture farm? Because we really don’t care. Lucasfilm must have looked at all of the characters in the Star Wars Saga and felt confident that a Han Solo movie had the most potential for some reason. And they were wrong. I think the one character that they should have focused on for a spin off movie was Darth Vader. People would have loved to have seen what Vader did between Episodes III and IV on the big screen.
  2. Don’t air your dirty laundry in public – The termination of Chris Lord and Phil Miller was handled poorly by Kathleen Kennedy and Lucasfilm. Lucasfilm made an official announcement that Lord and Miller were no longer part of Solo and then Lord and Miller basically slammed Lucasfilm. I think Lucasfilm should have still retained them, but had Ron Howard come on as a “consultant”. Meaning, pay the original directors to keep them quiet. Create an appearance that everything was just fine. Then pay Ron Howard a ton of money to quietly look at what worked and what didn’t, and have him work his magic. But once the news came out that Lord and Miller were fired, people, especially Star Wars fans, saw the project as being doomed. It was rumored that Lord and Miller had finished 80-90% of the principal photography for the film and for Lucasfilm to just give them their walking papers, that movie had to be really bad. All that did was give most people the idea that this movie was a mess and probably retain most of its mess, no matter what Howard did. Also, they were cutting it close because Disney was sticking to the release date and we all wondered was it really enough time for Howard to basically reshoot the majority of the movie? Unfortunately, Justice League set a precedent that bringing in a new director doesn’t always work. Zack Snyder was fired as the direct of Justice League and replaced with Joss Whedon. And people could tell that the tone of Justice League was a bit messed up because the parts that were Snyder’s were too dark, and the parts that were Whedon were too light.
  3. A mediocre Rotten Tomatoes score – In the world that we live in now, a lot of people decide whether they will see a movie or not based on the score that Rotten Tomatoes gives a particular movie. The Last Jedi received a 91% on Rotten Tomatoes and Solo received a 70%. Right away people looked at that and though the Solo score was not good. Movie goers might as well just save their money and just wait a few months to rent it at home. All I can say is I have seen Solo and liked it. I’ve yet to talk to anyone who did not enjoy it. People on various Star Wars forums seemed to have nothing but good things to say about Solo. Compare that to the reception that The Last Jedi received when it first came out and that movie was split by most fans as 50-50. Some fans thought that Last Jedi was the best Star Wars movie ever and some thought it was the worst.
  4. In most people’s minds, only Harrison Ford is Han Solo – Other than Darth Vader, the real breakout star of the Star Wars movies was Harrison Ford and his performance as Han Solo. So much so that he was really the only star from the Original Trilogy that went on to have a successful acting career in Hollywood. People really liked Luke but they loved Han Solo. And in most people’s minds, Harrison Ford is Han Solo and Han Solo is Harrison Ford. Any actor taking on the role of any version of Han Solo had a huge task ahead of them. How can they get people to accept them as Han Solo? For most people, it can’t be done. And if Lucasfilm decides to reboot Indiana Jones, they are going to have the same problem. The public will always compare these actors to Harrison Ford. If the actor is too much like Harrison Ford, they will say he is just doing an impression of him. If the actor just plays the role as he sees it without a Harrison impression, people will complain, he isn’t enough like Harrison Ford. The best thing to do is not to do an impression and just do your best job with the material. It’s been successful with other movie franchises. When Roger Moore took on the role as James Bond, he was nowhere near like Sean Connery and the current Bond, Daniel Craig is nothing like either of them. And the public accepted it and still does. A perfect example was Chris Pine taking on the role of a young James Kirk in the Star Trek reboot. Pine did a fantastic job of playing Kirk and no William Shatner impression was required. With all that being said, Alden Ehrenreich did a really good job. In no way did he fail with his performance of Han Solo.
  5. There was no real villain – I think it is almost a certainty that Star Wars gave us the greatest villain in cinematic history with Darth Vader. For a Star Wars movie, Darth Vader is a tough act to follow. So much so, that not only was his story the main focus in The Prequels, but he was also written into Rogue One. Did his appearance in Rogue One help sell more tickets? I think it did. I would say the one scene that people talked about over and over again was how Darth Vader single handedly decimated a group of Rebels trying to escape from The Empire. Even the shadow of Darth Vader looms in The Force Awakens and The Last Jedi. Maybe not physically, but he is mentioned enough and it is implied that Kylo Ren could be the new Vader. Solo did have a villain. But the villain was not memorable at all and really had nothing to do with The Empire. For me, that was fine and kind of refreshing. Solo was a heist movie and the villains were more of the crime lord variety. But one thing I have learned is that a movie is only as good as its villain. Batman needs his Joker. Spider-man need his Green Goblin (maybe one day we’ll get a good one) and Star Wars needs its Darth Vader, or someone just as good, I mean bad.
  6. Solo was released only a few months after The Last Jedi had left theaters – Maybe Solo would have fared better if it was released this December. People were just getting over The Last Jedi, for better or for worse, and then boom, Solo is now in theaters. Solo could have used time to breathe and also the extra time could have given Ron Howard more time to fine tune the movie and maybe the marketing department could have gotten things together too.
  7. The Last Jedi was very divisive among Star Wars fans – Although a lot of people liked The Last Jedi, there were also a large portion of people who just hated the film. The Last Jedi was by no means was a failure, but I feel it came in below Disney’s expectations, especially with The Force Awakens making almost a billion dollars more. Unfortunately for Solo, the direction that The Last Jedi had gone to may have caused fans to abandoned or even possibly boycott future Star Wars films.
  8. It’s John Carter all over again – Solo was kind of dead on arrival. Marketing did not help the movie at all and I have a feeling heads will be rolling in the marketing department. Disney and Lucasfilm didn’t start really marketing Solo until February when we got a teaser during the Superbowl. Why not show a teaser before The Last Jedi? Maybe get those Star Wars fans in attendance excited for it? Nope, we’ll wait till February, four months before we release the film. And the trailers and TV spots really did not sell the movie well. I know they released a few trailers, but I couldn’t tell the difference in most of footage like I could with The Last Jedi. As soon as they added 3 seconds of additional footage in a TV spot for The Last Jedi, I knew. They could have also released some movie posters showing actual action instead of some artistic individual character posters that flooded the market. I saw more Lando posters leading up to the movie than I did of Han Solo himself.
  9. Lucasfilm tried to replicate what Marvel did too quickly – Back when Disney acquired Lucasfilm and Star Wars, their goal was to make as much money from the brand as possible. And the best way was to make “new” Star Wars movies, especially sequels to the Star Wars Saga that had become a part of most people’s lives. At the time, Disney was profiting with the huge success of the movies being released in The Marvel Cinematic Universe. The audiences seemed to shell out money again and again for the next superhero movie that held the Marvel moniker. And to this day, they seem as though they still can’t get enough of Marvel. I’m sure there were many executives at Disney that felt that if The Force Awakens made $2 billion in a few months, every Star Wars movie they release would make close to that. So let’s start releasing a Star Wars movie every year, and then eventually two or three a month. The problem is that it seems as though they are over saturating the market and we might be seeing diminishing returns now. Not everyone can copy Marvel’s formula. DC tried and they failed, but similar to Star Wars, they wanted to flood the market with superhero movies to get some of that sweet, sweet, box office mullah. You can’t sacrifice quality for quantity.

Hopefully, Disney and Lucasfilm will learn something from this. They need to slow down and space the movies out a bit. And don’t rush. If they would have taken their time, instead of rushing to get Solo out for the date that they set in stone, they could have hired directors that were on the same page as them from the very beginning. Solo is a good movie. I don’t know how much rewatchability it will have, and it’s not the best Star Wars movie, but it’s far from the worst too. It’s a shame that Solo will not do well at the box office because Lucasfilm could have had a new trilogy on their hands. I hope that Disney and Lucasfilm use their heads and put the brakes on the rumored Obi-Wan Kenobi and Boba Fett movies for now. I guess the good thing to come from Solo’s failure is hopefully Disney and Lucasfilm will wake up and we won’t see this ever happen again.

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About the author

Joe Hogarty

Joe moved from New York to Florida back in 1997. He currently resides in St. Petersburg and visits the parks frequently. His first visit to the Magic Kingdom was when he was 8 years old back in 1974. Joe originally originally started as a photographer for WDWNT and is now the host of WDWNT: Nerd Alert, our movie reviewer and reports the news for WDWNT. You can contact Joe through email at [email protected]

32 Comments

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  • You can spin the mushroom cloud all you want, but we have successfully tested our nuclear weapon and we intend to use it again.

  • My kids want to go see this movie, but they would rather watch Incredibles 2 when that comes out. They are even more excited to see the new Jurassic Park movie later this month. We have decided to wait to see Solo with Redbox because seeing 3 movies in one month would be way too expensive for our family. It seems like there are a lot of movies aimed at the same demographic right now.

  • The points in this article are well taken, however, I do not believe the average film goers analyze the problems Film Studios have while making a film, and decide to see a film based upon production issues.

    The Stars Wars “brand” has simply been over-marketed.

    With the planned additions of the Star Wars additions at Walt Disney World, heavy Marketing has Saturated everything.

    Star Wars has been shoved down the throats of people to the point that many are simply desensitized to anything Star Wars.

    Even going to a wonderful All-You-Can-Eat Buffet, can make you sick when too much is shoved down your throat.

    Artificial popularity is created for projects through heavy marketing, but there is no substitute for simply making a great product, and letting the general public generate the appreciation.

    I predict the SAME Disappointing Numbers will be achieved when all the Star Wars additions become a reality at Walt Disney World…

    Too much Hype, is certain to result in disappointment.

    You can fool some of the people some of the time… You might be able to fool most of the people most of the time, but you can’t fool ALL of the people ALL of the time.

    Reaching the point where it is believed that public opinion can be created and guided at will, is a step away from the complete loss of public trust, and will result in a fall from grace which cannot be recovered from.

    • Agree. I’m one of the few people that I know that is worried about Galaxy’s Edge. It’s more connected to the sequels and not the original trilogy. People would have loved to have seen Vader or Luke and Leia. And it’s 2 rides, lots of dining and tons of merchandise spots. I’m worried it’s goong to feel like Canto Bight.

  • Great analysis, Joe. Like you said, there are MULTIPLE issues at stake here. Solo really was a great movie, and it’s a shame that it’s not getting the recognition / reception it deserves. Going into the movie and knowing what to expect (a western / heist movie) instead of the typical “the fate of the universe is at stake” Star Wars probably helped to keep my expectations low… but they also made this movie less of an “event” than previous Star Wars movie, which turned off the casual fan.

    Hopefully the studio will learn from it’s mistakes and move on from here. No studio hits a home run every time… even Marvel had an under-performing “The Incredible Hulk” and Pixar had under-performers like “The Good Dinosaur” and “Cars 3″…

    • Agree. I’m one of the few people that I know that is worried about Galaxy’s Edge. It’s more connected to the sequels and not the original trilogy. People would have loved to have seen Vader or Luke and Leia. And it’s 2 rides, lots of dining and tons of merchandise spots. I’m worried it’s goong to feel like Canto Bight.

      • Calling it now, next bomb will be a Romeo and Juliet style film about a forbidden romance between a Jawa and a Sand Person with the climax being the Jawa finding out that his love was slaughtered by Anakin when he killed all the Sand People that had taken his mother, and he swears vengience against Anakin. The proposed sequel would then deal with his eventual confrontation with Anakin, now as Darth Vader, who recognizes the same fear and hatred of sand in the Jawa and takes him on as the first Jawa with Apprentice. The final film in the trilogy would deal with his eventual redemption as he finds out that his true love wasn’t actually killed but had set out to become a pod racer, but never told him because she was afraid he would not approve due to a offhand comment he once made about how stupid pod racing is.

        These will obviously be directed by Rian Johnson.

    • I think you have a point. Star Wars was a Space Opera in the beginning. So far, even in Rogue One, the stakes in Star Wars movies are galactic in nature. Not so with Solo, which is probably odd for the general public.

      Lucasfilm is going to have to figure out how to prepare audiences for smaller Star Wars movies. Maybe that will have to wait until after Ep9. I do think the biggest problem was releasing it now instead of this winter or even next summer

  • I wish people would quit using the ‘John Carter’ comparison, yes it did not do well in the US but made a healthy overseas haul. Also let’s see what ‘Solo’ does once it’s in full release at the end of the month

  • It all comes down to story. Last Jedi was a subpar story. Call it focusing on silly SJW story lines or casting fans aside – bottom line the story was a failure. Beautiful production but a failure of a story. Fans are fickle and will just watch at rental. Too few fans felt the urgency to see Solo after Last Jedi and the proof is in the Box Office.

    • Yup. You hit the nail on the head. The last few movies have been pushing agenda. If you decide to push a specific agenda, you risk losing 50% of your audience.

  • I’m curious to see if it will improve and ultimately do ok over the long haul. As you mention, everyone I know who saw the movie liked it. I’d rank it easily in the top 1/3 to 1/2 of the Star Wars films.

  • I’ll tell you why my family didn’t go see Solo this past weekend: Disney/ABC cancelled Roseanne. Joy Reid and Samantha Bee got forgiven for their gaffes, but not Roseanne. I won’t give my money to a PC hypocritical company like Disney’s become. Robert Iger can stuff it.

  • Zack Snyder was not fired. His daughter committed suicide during the production. He stepped down because of that. Whether or not his helmsmanship was what JUSTICE LEAGUE needed, it’s kind of distasteful that you’d spin it otherwise.

    • Snyder was fired. They were keeping it quiet, like Lucasfilm should have done. WB spun the story to make it seem like it was best for both parties if Snyder stepped down. But Whedon was already on the set months ago. I like Snyder. Wasn’t being distasteful. Just telling the truth my friend.

      • Joe’s right. I remember the news came out later that it wasn’t just the death of his daughter (certainly that played into it), but that it just wasn’t working.

  • 1. It didn’t “bomb”. That’s the press-line that makes people think a movie bombed that simply didn’t meet inflated expectations. Please stop repeating that silly press line.

    2. This is the first time Disney’s tried putting out two Star Wars pictures within five months of each other. It had the unfortunate effect of eliminating the marketing buildup for SOLO as they focused on LAST JEDI, and with no marketing, no trailer, and no footage, the press focused on the backstage drama, creating really bad buzz with made-up stories that never went away.

    3. It’s probably my favorite Star Wars film of the last few years. Fans should see it.

    • For a Star Wars movie, it bombed. Might not even break even. Like I said, I liked it, but you can’t say it was a financial success.

    • I agree that it was really good. As is our habit, I saw it on release night to see how the kids would do with it, then the whole family watched it this weekend. My wife (who goes along because the kids and I love it) liked it more than any Star Wars film in a long time (probably since OT)

      This was the first Star Wars movie I hadn’t been extremely excited about (and I consider myself a huge fan), which is a problem when it comes to the more general audience. I think part of this was the production problems and the lack of interest in seeing Han’s origin. Also, the hype is SOO huge for the Last Jedi (and Force Awakens before it), I think it just sucked all the oxygen out of the room. I think it would have done much better at Christmas this year or summer BEFORE Ep9. Think about releasing it as Galaxy’s Edge opens at Disneyland….

      All that said, I would be VERY excited to see a sequel to solo based on the setup at the end. not holding my breathe though.

  • The reason I didn’t see it was that the Last Jedi was a horrible mess of a movie. The second reason is that I’m not convinced that Han Solo’s back story is something I really needed to know about. I agree with the author, a much better movie would focus on Darth Vader and the Emporer shortly after number III. If they release a Boba Flett movie as once rumored it will flop even worse.

  • Wow, the author actually mentioned the Last Jedi backlash and boycott. It’s about time someone did.

  • I’m sure all of these points contributed. But for me and that’s all I can speak for, half of them I didn’t even know until I read this so they obviously didn’t factor in for me. I think the timing was really bad… Too soon after TLJ, the big marvel movie and before Incredibles and Jurassic on the horizon. However I am personally having an unmotivation for all of Hollywood now. I get tired of the preachy judgementality and damnation that Hollywood projects when they have always been on our societies weakest industry in many of those areas, promoting insanely violent behavior, drug use, promiscuity and a general lack of morals. I heard of the unnecessary droid rights thing and the potential of the fluidity of lando and just decided, nope. In TLJ at one point when it seemed like Laura Dern was going to be either the goat or potentially even a villain, I thought…wow, Disney is taking a chance having a woman be shown in a bad light. Then she ends up having a plan the whole time that works (and doesn’t bother to tell anyone)… And I was like… Yep, that’s typical. I’m a huge fan of the Disney company but they are hyper PC and hypocritical at the same time, much like the rest of Hollywood.

    • Couldn’t agree with you more. Not sure if it’s Disney or Lucasfilm but they have really been pushing PC and it’s turning some fans off. It’s like their agenda in TLJ was more important than good storytelling.

      However, I thought Q’ira was great in Solo.She didn’t feel forced and was an interesting character. Make more characters like that.

  • I think the #1 major reason it didn’t live up to expectations (I still don’t think it’s fair to call it an outright “flop”) is it came out too close to The Last Jedi. They should’ve stuck to one year in between films instead of six months. The casual fan just wouldn’t feel compelled to rush out to see another. So far, especially among SW fans, I haven’t heard many bad reviews of it. I suppose it could be that Han Solo means more to older fans than the young kids, but I still think it’s mostly being too close to the last film.

    But I do think SW land could live up to the hype. If Avatar can have 3 hour wait times, SW can do very very well.

  • You mentioned the May release being too close, which I totally agree with, but it also put it up against summer movie competition, which hasn’t been the case with the December movie releases. Avengers and Deadpool 2 were still running strong.

    In addition, the December releases feel like special events. I’ve seen a lot of offices doing outings during the holidays to see the movie together. In the summer there’s none of that.

  • This is the best post mortem on Solo I have read yet in the mainstream press. Most ignore the reason 7; how much a lot of core fans hated The Last Jedi, and the subsequent boycott. There are two main complaints about TLJ that these fans have made loud and clear; 1) the way it made the beloved Luke into a pathetic loser, and 2) the injection if Identity Politics reached the overkill point in TLJ, and the fans had enough.

    The second reason enabled Disney to just dismiss them as a bunch of bigots and totally disregard their dissatisfaction – any dissatisfaction. And most of the mainstream press is philosophically aligned with the ideologues at Disney, and they also think these disappointed fans are just a bunch of deplorables, so they don’t want to acknowledge that they made a difference and validate the victory.

    • Thanks Luke! Really appreciated what you said.

      I was OK with Luke’s storyline in Last Jedi. But kind of weird to go to Ahch-To and disconnect yourself from The Force. Also, Luke did try to kill Ben and dont like that he kept telling people that Ben betrayed him and murdered some of his students. Sounds like he told his parents that story too because that was what Han said. That aint cool. The political correctness was just too much. I try not to push it too much because I dont want to lose half of my audience. But it was definitely a little too obvious what they were doing. I guess it was Johnson. But it seems like people like to blame Kennedy. Who knows who’s responsible? But pushing agenda didn’t work them.

      Also Hamill was so negative about The Last Jedi and saying the dumbest things before and after the movie. I think by him pushing several times before the movie was released that he did not like Johnson’s version of Luke, it drew the attention of many Star Wars fans and influenced them in not accepting the Luke in the movie, even before they had seen the movie. I’d be really surprised if Hamill is asked to come back for Episode 9. I’m sure his shenanigans cost them millions of dollars and may have had a somewhat effect on Solo not doing well too.

      Hate to say it but maybe Kennedy may need to go.

  • Long time fans like myself were disgusted by the direction and tone that Rian Johnson took in The Last Jedi. Without the support of the ardent fans (who would take their kids, spouses, and friends with them to Star Wars movies) Lucas Film is left with a remaining fans and casual movie goers. Obviously the number of people who enjoyed The Last Jedi enough to want to see Solo is a lot less then most people thought.

    • Turd Ferguson. LOL I get that reference.

      For the most part, Star Wars is like Transformers, where people are going to see a Star Wars movie with an Episode number in the title no matter how bad the story is.

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