The Walt Disney Co. announced yesterday that it is pushing back the release date for the next chapter in the Star Wars saga, from May 26, 2017 to Dec. 15, 2017. That puts Chapter VIII's release date within two weeks of the planned Dec. 25 opening for Avatar 2 - a Fox franchise to which Disney is now tied at the hip, thanks to its new Pandora: The World of Avatar land, which opens at Disney's Animal Kingdom next year.
The next Pirates of the Caribbean movie is moving up from July to take Star Wars' old release date. The move also means that fans will get a new Star Wars movie in three consecutive Decembers, with Force Awakens last year, Rogue One this year, and Chapter VIII next year.
But what will Fox and James Cameron think about Disney moving the next Star Wars so close to Avatar's opening? Disney already got into a public fight with another prominent director, Quentin Tarantino, over the release date for Force Awakens. Industry chatter said that Disney used its clout to prevent Taratino from running The Hateful Eight in the widescreen Cinerama Dome in Hollywood during the entire holiday season, threatening to pull Force Awakens from the Arclight chain if Star Wars didn't have the screen through the season.
Disney will need a strong publicity push to launch its Avatar land, given the widespread skepticism toward the project in the fan community. (Personally, I think that skepticism is unwarranted, based on what I have seen of the project. And I've seen a lot.) Cameron's participation would be invaluable to help Disney publicize the land, so the company can't afford to offend its partner in the months leading up to the debut.
Will Fox move the release date for Avatar? Will both films go ahead in December 2017, crowding out every other film from screens around the world that month? Did Bob Iger just send a very large fruit basket to Jim Cameron's home? Questions, questions, questions....Tweet
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