Disney CEO Bob Iger confirmed in an interview with The Hollywood Reporter this week that the speculation after the massive box office disappointment of the latest "Star Wars" installment was true: Disney will be scaling back the franchise.
"I made the timing decision, and as I look back, I think the mistake that I made — I take the blame — was a little too much, too fast," Iger said of the release of "Solo" just six months after "The Last Jedi."
"You can expect some slowdown, but that doesn't mean we're not going to make films," he said. "J.J. [Abrams] is busy making [Episode] IX. We have creative entities, including [Game of Thrones creators David] Benioff and [D.B.] Weiss, who are developing sagas of their own, which we haven't been specific about. And we are just at the point where we're going to start making decisions about what comes next after J.J.'s."
He concluded by underscoring that they are "going to be a little bit more careful about volume and timing. And the buck stops here on that."
The performance of "Solo" was a clear warning to Disney about the potential for "franchise fatigue." After bringing in a stunning $937 million domestically for "The Force Awakens" (released December 2015) and an unexpectedly strong $532 million for "Rogue One" (released December 2016), "The Last Jedi" (released December 2017) brought in two-thirds of the amount of the first Abrams film, earning a still impressive $620 million. But "Solo," released just over five months later in May 2018 only managed $214 million domestically, less than half of what "Rogue One" earned.
Along with the botched timing, "Solo" was hampered by a lot of negative buzz after Disney felt it necessary to replace its original directors, Phil Lord and Christopher Miller, with Ron Howard. The other factor that appears to have taken a toll on the film was the strong backlash from the heavy-handed social justice messaging in "The Last Jedi."
Asked about the firing of "Guardians of the Galaxy" director James Gunn, Iger said it was brought to him as a "unanimous decision of a variety of executives at the studio and I supported it," adding, "I haven't second-guessed their decision."
Iger also offered his thoughts on ESPN's attempt to rein in the political and social messaging.
"I have nothing but praise for the job Jimmy Pitaro has done at ESPN," said Iger. "There's been a big debate about whether ESPN should be focused more on what happens on the field of sport than what happens in terms of where sports is societally or politically. And Jimmy felt that the pendulum may have swung a little bit too far away from the field. And I happen to believe he was right. And it's something, by the way, that I think John Skipper had come to recognize as well. But Jimmy coming in fresh has had the ability to address it, I think, far more aggressively and effectively. He has brought back some balance."