Unfortunately, Disney (DIS) did not make any announcements regarding the future of the big or small screen Star Wars franchise on its earnings call earlier this week. But, despite delays forced by the COVID-19 pandemic and baseless internet rumors claiming that Lucasfilm is striking their movies from continuity, we will be getting a new Star Wars film in 2023.
That should come as no surprise to fans and detractors alike. Disney acquired Lucasfilm in 2012 for a whopping $4 billion and while the immediate future of a galaxy far, far away resides on Disney+ with multiple new series in development, blockbuster features will always be a massive moneymaking opportunity. Four of Disney’s five Star Wars films have surpassed $1 billion at the global box office, after all.
But considering production budgets, marketing spends and revenue splits with movie theaters, delivering a Star Wars movie is a costly endeavor. So how much money did Disney truly walk away with for each film?
Star Wars: The Force Awakens (2015)
Domestic Box Office: $936,662,225
Worldwide Box Office: $2,068,223,624
Star Wars: The Force Awakens, the decades in the making sequel to Return of the Jedi, remains the highest-grossing domestic film ever by a wide margin (Avengers: Endgame is No. 1 with $858 million). At the time of its release, it enjoyed the biggest opening weekend in movie history ($248 million) and became the third highest-grossing film ever. Five years later, it now sits at a “lowly” fourth all-time. Not too shabby.
All told, Star Wars: The Force Awakens was the most purely profitable film of 2015 and one of the most profitable films ever with $923 million in net profits. Cartwheels and champagne popping at Lucasfilm.
Rogue One: A Star Wars Story (2016)
Domestic Box Office: $532,177,324
Worldwide Box Office: $1,056,057,273
The first-ever big screen Star Wars spinoff boasts a solid claim as the best Star Wars movie released under Disney. The film proved so popular that Lucasfilm is developing a Disney+ prequel spinoff series revolving around Diego Luna’s Rebel spy Cassian Andor. With a robust opening of more than $155 million, it looked as if Disney’s risky strategy to expand the cinematic scope of Star Wars would pay off (more on that later). In this case, it did, with Rogue One generating a healthy $320 million in net profits to become the third most-profitable film of 2016.
Star Wars: The Last Jedi (2017)
Domestic Box Office: $620,181,382
Worldwide Box Office: $1,332,539,889
Rian Johnson‘s bold Star Wars: The Last Jedi was easily the most polarizing product produced under Disney, dividing the fanbase with its deconstruction of the Jedi mythos. No one expected the film to match the incredible box office highs of The Force Awakens. But after a $220 million opening, seeing domestic ticket sales plunge 34% and the global total sink 35% overall was understandably concerning. A massive 66% drop in its second weekend didn’t help inspire confidence either. It was also around this time that Star Wars merchandise sales began to sink as well.
But, despite the slippage, The Last Jedi was still 2017’s most profitable movie with $418 million in net profits. Even a divisive Star Wars product was a massive commercial success.
Solo: A Star Wars Story (2018)
Domestic Box Office: $213,767,512
Worldwide Box Office: $392,924,807
Dismissing original filmmakers Phil Lord and Chris Miller deep into production threw Solo: A Star Wars Story into chaos while alienating a portion of the fan base. After Ron Howard was brought in as replacement and much of the movie was reshot, Solo‘s budget shot out of control (likely surpassing $300 million despite the publicly listed figure). Throw in the fact that general audiences were never gung-ho about a Han Solo origin story and, well, the writing was on the wall.
Solo didn’t exactly bomb here in America (any tentpole that surpasses $200 million domestic is pretty solid), but overseas audiences were completely uninterested. Arriving just six months after The Last Jedi (too tight of a turnaround for comfort), the film totaled just $179 million in international territories, an abysmal marker. Thus, Solo became the first Star Wars movie to actually lose money, with Lucasfilm taking a $77 million write down on the film. The studio would halt all plans for further big screen spinoffs following Solo‘s flop at the box office.
Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker (2019)
Domestic Box Office: $515,202,542
Worldwide Box Office: $1,074,144,248
Okay, so J.J Abrams’ Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker is not a great movie, nor is it a satisfying conclusion to the Skywalker Saga. But it is a fun-enough swashbuckling adventure space movie to have capped off a strong run for Lucasfilm. And while the film did make a bundle of money, it’s hard not to see it as something of a financial disappointment overall.
Rise of Skywalker marked lows in opening weekend ($177 million), domestic box office, international box office, and worldwide box office ticket sales among the sequel trilogy. Specifically, it sunk 17% in North American box office and 19% in global sales from The Last Jedi. It also received the lowest Rotten Tomatoes score (51%) of any live-action Star Wars flick. Ouch. And yet, despite all of the turbulence, the global blockbuster still hauled in a net profit of $300 million for the studio.
Last year, then Disney CEO Bob Iger conceded that the studio “put a little bit too much in the marketplace too fast” when it came to its shiny new Jedi toys. With five Star Wars films in just four years, we’d agree. But while Disney may not have maximized profits for a number of reasons, the studio still walked away with one of the most lucrative runs in cinematic history. All told, those five films earned more than $1.8 billion in pure box office profits.