Star Wars is on the decline under Disney’s ownership.
As a Disney stockholder, it’s getting harder and harder to ignore that the Star Wars brand is waning in popularity under the management of the Mouse House.
And the brand damage could have been minimized at several points in time, but Disney seemingly seems to be plowing ahead with their own plans, fandom (customers) be damned.
The Rise of Skywalker should’ve been the biggest movie of the year, but it opened much software than expected and is just now breaking a billion dollars at the box office… much slower than both The Last Jedi (19 days) and especially The Force Awakens (12 days.)
While any other film franchise would be thrilled to hit the billion dollar mark (Disney’s 7th over the course of a year) it’s somewhat disappointing for Star Wars.
I mean, this is Star Freaking Wars. This series of films defined a generation, but doesn’t seem to be resonating with today’s youth as it once did.
Don’t believe me? Just check out these headlines from other media outlets…
Last year I’d written an article on our sister site D-Rezzed that whacked the beehive. Given the relative commercial and critical disappointment of The Rise of Skywalker (and the rumors that a much better film was in development under Colin Trevorrow) I thought it might be time to revisit that over here on PNP, as it might shed some light on Disney’s continuing Star Wars dilemma.
This article was originally published on August 2019 on D-Rezzed.
Disney Can No Longer Deny That ‘Star Wars’ is a Damaged Franchise
A billion dollar Star Wars theme park expansion being ridiculed as a “flop” by the media.
A steep decline in Star Wars merchandise sales that even toy manufacturer Hasbro seemingly blames Disney for.
The last theatrical Star Wars film, Solo: A Star Wars Story, bombing at the box office.
And a vocal fanbase that feels betrayed by Star Wars’ current custodians, and is constantly at odds with the people behind the franchise on social media.
It’s clear we’re no longer living in 1979. Or even 1999.
Welcome to 2019, where it’s obvious to anyone paying attention that Star Wars is a damaged franchise under Disney’s stewardship. And after months of denial on Disney’s part, CEO Bob Iger seems to finally, finally be admitting it.
Star Wars merchandise sales are in decline. Again.
According to Disney’s third-quarter earnings report, Star Wars merchandise sales are down. Again.
Yes, they were also down last year, too.
The increase at our consumer products business was due to growth at our merchandise licensing and retail businesses. Growth at merchandise licensing was primarily due to higher revenue from merchandise based on Toy Story, partially offset by a decrease from Star Wars merchandise. The increase at our retail business was due to higher comparable store sales and online revenue.
Go to any Walmart or bargain outlet and take a look at the glut of sequel era Star Wars merchandise they can’t even unload at rock bottom prices.
Or just ask a Toys ‘R Us employee about it. Oh, wait…
Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge is being called a “flop.” Disneyland’s attendance plummets over the summer.
Despite Disney defenders trying to put as positive of a spin on the disaster that is Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge, the mainstream media has seen right through it and continues to throw shade at the billion dollar expansion’s failure to draw crowds.
In fact, the Star Wars themed land seems to be chasing people away instead of drawing them to Disneyland.
And when there was some pushback from Disney fandom about the validity of people’s claims about the park being empty, USA Today had to step in and provide aerial photos as proof to shut that debate down hard.
But hey, it’s just the jealous naysayers throwing shade at Disney, right?
According to that same third-quarter earnings report, Disney Parks attendance was down overall.
So, no, it’s not our imaginations.
And Disney CEO Bob Iger had to put his own positive spin on the situation. Saying that Galaxy’s Edge will be profitable… someday.
“And so all of those factors [prince increase, fear of crowds] contributed to attendance that was below what we would have hoped it would be. That said, guest satisfaction, interest in the attraction in the land is extremely high, it’s the most popular thing at the park. And so, long term, we build these things for the long term, we have no concerns whatsoever about them. We’re opening Galaxy’s Edge in August in Orlando, the second attraction there will open in December, and, as I said, the second attraction in Anaheim will open in January, so we feel great about the product we’ve created, it just takes some time to, basically for us, to work themselves out in terms of how the marketplace is reacting.”
Meanwhile, Universal had 10 hour waits for a new Harry Potter coaster, and announced a third theme park that will likely feature Nintendo.
Kids today love Nintendo. They don’t care much about Star Wars.
Speaking of which…
Kids today don’t care about Star Wars. So why keep insulting their parents?
According to Bloomberg, kids today just aren’t into Star Wars.
Well, not like their parents were.
It’s just another sci-fi fantasy franchise to them, and one that doesn’t seem to hold the same level of interest as Fortnite, Harry Potter or Disney’s other big franchise, Marvel.
Star Wars toy sales popped with 2015’s “The Force Awakens,” the start of a trilogy that united Han, Luke and Leia with a new band of heroes, but have slumped since. “Solo: A Star Wars Story,” last year’s spinoff featuring the backstory of beloved characters, utterly bombed. “The Last Jedi,” the second in the new trilogy, was profitable but fell shy of its predecessor’s performance. The next installment, “The Rise of Skywalker,” will have the very future of the franchise riding on it when it debuts in December.
Attempts to make Star Wars more relatable to today’s youth with all new protagonists and villains has seemingly been met with apathy, judging by the unsold toys clogging clearance aisle shelves.
And old school Star Wars fans were dismayed at how their childhood heroes were sidelined, the victims of character assassination, or killed off entirely.
In the case of the original trilogy’s series protagonist Luke Skywalker, it’s all of the above.
‘The Last Jedi’ irreparably damaged the brand. But Disney will not acknowledge it.
To say that The Last Jedi split the fandom is an understatement. In fact, it could be argued the movie’s terrible treatment of classic characters (and its poor handling of the Star Wars fandom in the aftermath) directly lead to the current state of the Star Wars franchise.
Many fans threatened to boycott Star Wars after The Last Jedi. Yet the internet media pundits laughed it off as just a “vocal minority” of disgruntled, basement-dwelling fanboys.
Months later, Solo bombed at the box office. Toy sales plummeted. The theme park is a ghost town. And there’s a deafening lack of chatter about The Rise of Skywalker from the general public, compared to the previous two sequel trilogy films.
If Star Wars is not resonating with children, then Disney must do what it can to keep the adult fans happy if they want the franchise to survive.
It’s mostly adults who are buying the toys, and certainly adults who are paying the exorbitant theme park ticket prices for their families. And I can almost guarantee you that only an adult would purchase a $200 designer lightsaber.
Having the director of the most polarizing Star Wars film of all times call the fans names on social media is not a good look. Nor is letting freelancers associated with the Star Wars brand attack people based on their politics.
And blaming Russian bots for the backlash is just really, really stupid.
Beyond splitting the fandom, The Last Jedi weirdly became a litmus test of sorts for a fan’s political affiliation. The fans who loved the film, generally speaking, seemed to be more progressive and those who despised it seemed to be more conservative.
And you can thank the (predominantly progressive) pop culture media outlets for that, as they stoked the fires for months by trying to incite the old school fans with endless article after article calling them misogynists, trolls and worse.
But hey, director Rian Johnson said he loved to make polarizing films. So if he intended to troll old school Star Wars fans all along, he succeeded on an unprecedented level.
Unfortunately, the franchise has suffered tremendously for it.
Star Wars has been relegated to direct-to-TV status. How embarrassing.
The future of Star Wars seems to be direct-to-Disney-Plus. With Solo bombing at the box office, Disney halted their plans for more spinoff movies.
However, they seem to be moving ahead with the trilogy from Game of Thrones directors Benioff and Weiss, despite their recently inking a $200 million deal with competitor Netflix.
Oh, and did we mention that those guys are now despised by the Game of Thrones fandom for dropping the ball on Season 8?
Yeah, this might not be the way to win back the Star Wars fandom, Disney. Just saying.
You had ONE job, Lucasfilm.
Han, Luke and Leia all together in one scene. That’s all many Star Wars fans hoped for, and what was expected when it was announced the trio would return for the sequel trilogy.
And when Mark Hamill posted an innocuous image about what he wished would have happened in the trilogy — a sentiment echoed by many fans — Twitter attacked him for it.
— Mark Hamill (@HamillHimself) April 26, 2019
(I might need a swig of that green milk myself. Alcoholic, please.)
The Force is no longer with this franchise.
The proof is in the pudding. Or lack of it. Star Wars is not making the money it should be making, and Disney needs to take a good, hard look at why and stop burying its head in the sand and blaming the fandom.
Bob Iger’s acknowledgement that the franchise is in decline is a good first step, but it might be too little, too late.
Pirates & Princesses (PNP) is an independent, opinionated fan-powered news blog that covers Disney and Universal Theme Parks, Themed Entertainment and related Pop Culture from a consumer's point of view. Opinions expressed by our contributors do not necessarily reflect the views of PNP, its editors, affiliates, sponsors or advertisers. PNP is an unofficial news source and has no connection to The Walt Disney Company, NBCUniversal or any other company that we may cover.