BY NUHA ISLAM
If three’s a crowd, then 10 is far too many. Nevertheless, Disney will continue to churn out movie after movie every year of the “Star Wars” series, originally started by George Lucas in 1977. With the passage of time, more is added to the massive franchise – prequels, video games, plush toys, comics and limited edition collectible figurines – keeping the attention of fans for over 40 years. But as revered films are spread thinner and massive studios pump out a seemingly endless stream of high-budget CGI space battle, it can become draining to follow along- a phenomenon known as blockbuster fatigue.
In a feature by Wired, the film studio has revealed plans to put out a new “Star Wars” movie every year, so long as there’s an audience willing to buy tickets.
“If the people at the Walt Disney Company, which bought Lucasfilm for $4 billion in 2012, have anything to say about it, the past four decades of Star Wars are merely prologue,” Wired writer Adam Rogers said. “They are making more. A lot more.”
That spells out an infinite supply of “Star Wars” movies, including ones original fans likely won’t live to see.
This decision at first can be confusing; with each episode, the profit margin of the movies falls exponentially. With American released movies, there can be a net loss in the box office, which was the case with the latest episode, “The Last Jedi.”
It’s not just “Star Wars”: there has been a widening disparity in the box office. Recent releases, such as “Proud Mary,” “Paddington 2” and “The Commuter” have all underperformed and likely won’t make back their money.
And yet creating new films can still be profitable, if not directly. Movies that domestically fail will rake in revenue from merchandise sales and mobile games. In this age, it is not necessary to net money in the box office in order to make a profit.
The other part of this equation is that international audiences are rapidly growing to a larger portion of the moviegoer crowd.
“Just two decades ago, overseas box office routinely accounted for less than half of a movie’s total haul,” entertainment writer Scott Bowles said. “Today, studios expect a 60-40 split favoring international box office… as American viewers drift in ever-greater number from traditional film and television to their smartphones and tablets for content, the foreign take for movies is often 75% or better.”
The shift in Hollywood’s target audience has a few impacts on theatrical releases. With a guaranteed audience, theatres are disincentivized from making high-quality movies. This can be seen with franchises that drag out past the expiration date, like the “Star Wars” series, and can turn low effort with the assumption that existing fans will be compelled to watch out of loyalty and new audiences are available overseas to soak up profit from.
In this age, it is not necessary to net money in the box office in order to make a profit.
Many movies under this context evolve into a mad lib game of amassing as many prior references and expensive visual effects as possible. And when a plot follows a formulaic storyline, the result is a predictable film and a loss of intrigue that comes with a well-crafted story.
If the viewer knows that the protagonist will beat out the bad guy and good will triumph over evil to the tune of inspiring orchestra music, the tension that accompanies the antagonist’s villainous acts is lost.
The oversaturation of the big screen can be boring, frankly. The Disney-Fox purchase opens up the door of every single Marvel property being under Disney’s control, which would lead to even more crossover movies and spinoffs, forcing fans to keep watching to keep up.
In the Marvel upcoming film, “Infinity War,” there is a single frame with over 40 superheroes filling the screen.
“I’ve never walked into a Marvel movie wondering what the ending is going to be,” junior Isaac Chiu said. “I know by the end of the movie, there will be no long-term consequences of the story. Everything will revert back to its original state. It’s as if the events of the movie never took place.”
Superheroes have recently been dominating the box office, especially considering the lineup for this summer. “Avengers Infinity War” and “Deadpool 2” are scheduled back to back in May, with both movies expecting record-breaking numbers. Then Disney will release “The Incredibles 2” in June.
These franchises are not only facing internal strife but competition from other big name theatrical releases.
When blockbuster films are released within days of each other, audiences have to make a choice about what is worth watching, with movies cannibalizing each other’s revenues.
Hollywood has reached a plateau. With long-standing series coming to a narrative standstill and financial motives solely driving the production of new releases, the only thing that’s clear is that franchises like “Star Wars” will not remain a trilogy.
The details don’t matter as much as the volume of intellectual property floating around out there—nearly a century of stories; tens, if not hundreds of thousands of pages, all connected. That’s the vein today’s movie-universe writers are mining.
“It’s not like I created Captain America,” McFeely says. “There are other keepers of the flame.”
Photo courtesy of Disney’s “Star Wars” franchise