When Solo: A Star Wars Story arrived in cinemas in 2018, I enjoyed what was on offer. Sure, I admit it never felt like essential viewing, but I did think it served up a fun ride for fans.
I certainly don’t want to bash the movie, because I think it did many things right and deserved a bit more praise than it received during its theatrical run. But that doesn’t mean I can ignore its shortcomings at the box office.
I feel like it would be a bit amiss if I didn’t address the simple fact that Solo failed financially. Solo struggled to find its feet and it is was eventually obliterated by the competition.
So, why did the film flop?
Below are five reasons as to why I believe Solo floundered at the box office. You’ll be pleased to note that not one of these reasons has anything to do with the quality of the movie itself, which I argue was generally quite good.
First and foremost, the biggest issue which hit Solo was general apathy – both from fans and from casual cinemagoers. Regardless of anyone’s feelings towards the movie, the appetite for a Han Solo standalone movie just wasn’t there and to be honest, this isn’t a new revelation.
When the project was initially announced, the feeling amongst the Star Wars fan base was confusion, with many asking ‘why would Lucasfilm/Disney make a movie about a character we already know so much about?’. This question pretty much dogged the movie from the get-go and it was something which the film never managed to shake off.
If a film starts on a fairly apathetic footing, then it is often very difficult for the project to turn things around. At best – which seemed to be the case with Solo – the general attitude towards the movie was quite positive, but that wasn’t enough to get bums on seats.
How could Lucasfilm/Disney have changed this? Well, it’s possible that nothing would have changed the initial reaction to this movie – people just weren’t interested.
Behind the scenes issues
Another factor which had an impact on Solo, from the early stages of its production, was the behind the scenes issues, namely the firing of original directors Phil Lord and Chris Miller. While fans might not have been all that fussed by the prospect of a Han Solo movie, the fact that Lord and Miller were on board did make the project sound a little more interesting.
Lord and Miller are known for their quirky approach to properties (The Jump Street films (2012-2014), The Lego Movie (2014) etc), so the general feeling was this pair might be able to bring something new to the table. But when the duo were dismissed due to ‘creative differences’, the interesting hook of the project went too.
Bringing in replacement director Ron Howard was a good business move by Lucasfilm/Disney, as it placed the project in safe hands, but safe hands doesn’t necessarily get anyone excited. Once again the core fan base slipped back into a state of apathy (see above).
Another big problem hitting Solo was the backlash from The Last Jedi (2017) – and there was A LOT OF BACKLASH. The movie – which hit cinemas only a few months before Solo’s debut – was a very, very divisive film which caused a great disturbance in the… er… fan community.
With Solo landing less than six months after The Last Jedi caused a lot of upset, the fan base were simply not ready to dive back in for an experience they felt could offer similar disappointment. There was a general consensus amongst critics, commentators and fans that Solo should have been pushed back to Christmas 2018, giving the dust a chance to settle.
Distance might have benefited Solo, it might not, but being released so close to The Last Jedi certainly did it no favours.
A big concern with Solo, mostly resulting from the change in directors, was the simple lack of a trailer for the film. Sure, we got a couple of trailers before the film was released, but they arrived very late compared to most other films, and this made fans feel very uneasy.
People like set patterns for things, so when a trailer doesn’t drop within a certain timeframe they get worried. The worry is that backstage difficulties have caused a delay and this only adds to the negativity surrounding the project.
Solo’s delayed marketing campaign caused a lot of unrest. Loyal fans saw this as a bad sign, while casual cinemagoers were too busy caring about all the other heavily marketed movies of the summer (Avengers: Infinity War, Deadpool 2, Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom) to even notice Solo existed.
The way films are marketed nowadays differs greatly from how they were marketed in the past, but never underestimated the power of a well presented, carefully timed trailer and/or poster.
Just look at Suicide Squad which opened to terrible reviews back in 2016, but benefited from a very healthy box office. Why? Because Suicide Squad a great marketing campaign which ensured healthy interest long before the movie played on the big screen.
The marketing for Solo arrived a little too late and to be honest, was lacklustre at best.
And finally, one of the biggest problems Solo faced was stiff competition from the likes of Avengers: Infinity War, Deadpool 2 and Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom. Too many films arriving too soon had a huge effect on Solo’s takings.
As previously discussed on It’s A Stampede!, when a heap of big blockbusters get released at the same time it becomes a little too expensive for the average cinemagoer to keep up with.
Infinity War was such a massive movie that it easily became the No.1 must-see movie, followed by Deadpool 2. Solo fell to the back of the queue.
Asking audiences to pony up more cash to see Solo, all within the space of a month was a big ask, especially with cinema prices being high. Let’s also not forget that Black Panther was still drawing in audiences right up to the moment Infinity War was released, plus the likes of Rampage, Ready Player One and Tomb Raider also swallowed up some cash in the months leading up to Solo’s release.
There is only so much money to go around and while the constant arrival of big blockbusters and event movies is great for film fanatics, it’s not great for anyone’s wallet. Ultimately choices had to be made and some people chose to skip a movie or two. Solo got skipped.
Many people who opted to watch Solo on the big screen had a fun experience. Even those that weren’t that fussed about it didn’t seem to think it was a particularly bad film, just one that wasn’t needed.
Mistakes were made with Solo and this was not good for anyone involved in the picture. At the end of the day, a movie like this one needs to be sold to its consumer in the right way and put simply, Solo just didn’t sell.
Thank you for taking the time to read this post about Solo: A Star Wars Story. For more posts, be sure to check out the recommended reads below.
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