How Disney is Avoiding Star Wars Overload
Who says you can never have too much of a good thing? Well, actually, almost everyone. The bizarre example I will use is that when we were kids, if my brother and I told my mother we liked a certain meal (beef-a-roni, franks and beans, whatever) we would get it no less than three times a week. And, while that started out as being super awesome, it soon turned into tedium and a desire for something new.
There are two things that have happened in the last 12 months or so that will save us, the Star Wars fans, from eating too much beef-a-roni: Solo, A Star Wars Story and Game of Thrones.
How, you ask, is Solo helping in the “too much Star Wars” department? Wasn’t its perceived failure at the box office that has led to a reduction in the pace of films hitting theaters? Wasn’t it the fact that it came so quickly after the mixed reviews of The Last Jedi that made it stumble among the fans? Yes and yes. And, these, in the long run, are good things. There is no question that Solo was, by Star Wars terms, a bit of a miss in domestic and overseas take, but, to use an overused corporate term, it was a great “learning.” As much as I think both Disney and the fans want to believe that there is an appetite for all things Galaxy Far, Far Away all the time, I think there does come a point where it’s a little bit too much. And this disease will be cured by what the world learned from Game of Thrones.
Before Game of Thrones, television series production values were always a grade (or two) below feature films. Whether it was because networks didn’t have the money or there was a belief that television was a “lesser art form,” for whatever reason, things that debuted and ran on the small screen didn’t get full blown effort that movies did. What HBO learned was that a good, compelling story deserved the same epic creative that feature films did. And, if done right, could be much bigger successes, create intense fan loyalty and, through the ability to use ten hours versus two to tell a story, create a much deeper, richer world. And that is what Star Wars needs.
Now, I can’t give all the credit to Game of Thrones – although I will lobby that without its profound success, Netflix wouldn’t have commissioned their high quality series entrants. The chain looks like this: HBO is successful with Game of Thrones and proves that high production values are totally acceptable and pay off on the home theater screen. Netflix follows suit and shows incredible success with feature film quality series like Stranger Things. Disney says, “hold my beer” and creates Disney+.
As a result of the creation of Disney+, there is a need for alluring, high quality content to make it work. You can argue that world building is one of the things Star Wars does best and what better platform than a high quality, six to twelve hour limited series to explore it? While feature films will (probably) remain the tent poles of the Star Wars franchise, Star Wars series will be an a better place to tell the longer, deeper stories that don’t carry the summer blockbuster elements. One could argue the trilogy platform allows that, but the expectations of entertainment consumers has changed as well. Why make me wait four years to tell me a six hour story when I can binge a ten hour one over the weekend?
Now, Disney no longer has to create and build expectations for a movie a year – which I believe was the plan when they purchases LFL. They can create a series a year with less risk. If a series falls flat, you’ve still got the subscriber and they will eagerly await the next thing without having to spend as much on marketing. If a story of a side character doesn’t appeal to 50 million people but 2 million dig it, that’s ok.
It makes sense from a financial perspective as well. Stranger Things doesn’t necessarily need to buy television commercials. Bird Box didn’t buy any ads. Because I subscribe to Netflix, I will watch it and the social media campaign they run (or happens naturally) will create the buzz it needs. At 140 million subscribers paying on average $11.00/month they make nearly $20 billion per year. To put that in comparison, Disney made $7 billion in box office in 2018. Where I am going is that Disney can invest in the platform, give us the stories we want and not have to hit the box office numbers they would need.
What does this mean for us, the fans? It means that Disney can afford to give us the content without taking a risk. It means that the “general public” (those weirdos who aren’t obsessed with Star Wars like us) doesn’t need to buy tickets to see a movie about Obi-Wan’s backstory or some bounty hunter they’ve never heard of. This means less “exposure” and less overload on Star Wars. It means there won’t be a deluge of promotion and front page all-encompassing Star Wars promotion. It means we can ingest Star Wars in the way we want to as can the casual fan with flooding the market. It won’t be beef-a-roni every day!