NEW YORK – There is a disturbance in the Force.
The release of “Star Wars: Episode VIII” has been delayed from May 2017 to Dec. 15, 2017, the Walt Disney Co. announced Wednesday. The date change postpones the anticipated next “Star Wars” set installment to follow the box-office hit “The Force Awakens.”
Though “Star Wars” was once synonymous with the summer blockbuster, the date change means that the franchise will again look to dominate movie theatres in the holiday season. It has proven a lucrative match for “The Force Awakens,” which has made a record $861 million domestically and $1.88 billion globally in five weeks of release.
Disney offered no reason for the delay, but rumours have recently swirled that writer-director Rian Johnson (“Looper”) is rewriting the script. Production is set to begin next month in London.
In the interim, the “Star Wars” spin-off “Rogue One” is due out Dec. 16 this year. Directed by Gareth Edwards (“Godzilla”), it stars a cast including Felicity Jones, Diego Luna and Riz Ahmed.
With prominent release dates now staked out by studios years in advance for their largest franchises, the impact of the switch immediately caused ripples. Disney moved one of its other billion-dollar franchises, “Pirates of the Caribbean,” to May 26, 2017. The Johnny Depp series returns with “Dead Men Tell No Tales.”
At the same time, Sony Pictures moved two of its biggest movies into summer 2017. The next “Spider-Man,” starring Tom Holland and directed by Jon Watts, shifted up three weeks to July 28, 2017. Jake Kasdan’s “Jumanji” remake shifted from Christmas 2016 to July 28, 2017.