Wonder Woman 2 will now be going up against Star Wars, as Lucasfilm has announced that Episode IX will open on December 20, 2019.
The ninth episode of the Star Wars franchise was previously scheduled to open on May 24, 2019. But the film has been going through script issues for much of 2017, which led Lucasfilm to part ways with director Colin Trevorrow. On September 12, it was announced that The Force Awakens director J.J. Abrams would return to write and direct Episode IX. But considering he and co-writer Chris Terrio will apparently be starting from scratch on the script, it became impossible to get the movie in theaters in less than two years, and so hours after announcing Abrams’ hiring, Lucasfilm said that Episode IX has been delayed.
What’s particularly interesting about the new Star Wars date is that it’s just a week after the release of Wonder Woman 2. That superhero sequel had already been scheduled to open on December 13, and now Episode IX will open on December 20.
That’s bad news for Warner Bros., as Star Wars is quite a behemoth and is difficult to compete with at the box office, especially when the movie in question is aimed at the same demographic. Back in December 2015, there were no blockbuster tentpole action films that opened anywhere close to The Force Awakens with the exception of the Point Break remake, which was a disaster and only grossed $28 million domestically. The same ocurred in 2016, when no action film dared open nearby Rogue One: A Star Wars Story other than Assassin’s Creed, which was also a flop in the United States.
Star Wars‘ new date is also not great for Warner Bros. because the first Wonder Woman really benefited from having a successful second, third, and fourth weekend. Back in June, Wonder Woman continued to dominate at the box office for most of the month, especially as audiences generally steered clear of The Mummy and Transformers: The Last Knight. In fact, Wonder Woman managed to stay #1 at the box office two weeks in a row, then maintaining the #2 spot for two weeks after that.
But with Star Wars: Episode IX opening just seven days after Wonder Woman 2, the sequel no longer has any chance of repeating that same phenomenon and staying at the top of the box office for more than one weekend. While Wonder Woman‘s $410 million domestic gross this summer was impressive, it pales in comparison to Star Wars: The Force Awakens, which remains the highest-grossing film of all time in the United States with a gross of $936 million.
Even though Wonder Woman 2 was there first, it seems likely that Warner Bros. will move the film in order to avoid competing with Star Wars, something other studios have done in the past like when Ready Player One was delayed so that it wouldn’t open on the same day as The Last Jedi.
Depending on how quickly the sequel is able to get into production, Warner Bros. could potentially move Wonder Woman 2 ahead a few weeks to open in November, similar to the way that they’re opening Justice League this November a month before The Last Jedi. But that also creates some complications considering November 2019 already will see the release of the next James Bond film and of Frozen 2. A better strategy would probably be to delay the movie until June 2020. That way, it would open at the same time as the first film and would have slightly less competition. Warner Bros. already has an unannounced D.C. film scheduled for June 5, 2020, so they could simply slot Wonder Woman 2 in there.
It seems like only a matter of time before Warner Bros. moves Wonder Woman 2, but for now, it’s set to open a week ahead of Star Wars: Episode IX in 2019.