Disney has announced that they are pushing back the release Star Wars Episode VIII seven months. The film will now open December 15, 2017 instead of the previously scheduled May 26.
The announcement did not give a reason for the change but several sources, including Borys Kit of The Hollywood Reporter, claim that the change is due to rewrites, mainly to beef up the roles of new fan favorite characters Rey, Finn and Poe Dameron. Production of the film has been moved back a month already, with it originally scheduled to begin filming in January. There is also a chance that the company wishes to emulate the success they had with Episode VII: The Force Awakens’ December release date last year.
The change of date is similar to the release of The Force Awakens, which was also delayed months to December instead of a summer release after director JJ Abrams required more time to work on the film. Disney is also pushing up the fifth Pirates of the Caribbean film, Dead Man Tell No Tales, to fill the vacant May 26 space.
The change also positions the Episode VIII’s release date a week before the release of Avatar 2, the sequel to the 2009 James Cameron film Avatar. The Force Awakens recently beat Avatar’s record as the most successful film of all time in the US and in the UK but Avatar remains the most successful film globally. The change is possibly a coincidence as Disney is currently developing a new Avatar-themed section for it’s Animal Kingdom theme park.
The next film in the franchise is Star Wars: Rogue One, which will be the first film in the new Star Wars anthology series. Rogue One has also been dealing with changes and rewrites, most recently with Mission Impossible: Rogue Nation director Christopher McQuarrie coming in as the fourth writer to work on the movie.
Star Wars: Rogue One’s release date remains December 16, 2016. Principal photography on Star Wars Episode VIII begins next month.