Disney held its last quarterly earnings call of the year yesterday, and it used the opportunity to unveil some updates for the future of the Star Wars franchise and its streaming service, Disney +. Disney CEO Bob Iger says that following The Rise of Skywalker‘s release in December, the film franchise will go on hiatus, but that the company has additional TV shows in development.
During the Q&A portion of the call, Morgan Stanley analyst Ben Swinburne (about the 22:00 mark) asked Iger about the future of Disney’s biggest franchises. “When we think about those two businesses, Marvel and Star Wars,” Iger answered. “We think about them as more than just films and film franchises. We look at them across multiple businesses and with different basically creative strategies in mind.”
“As a for instance, in both cases, while there will continue to be films either in development or in production, there’s a lot of activity on the television front. Star Wars has three television series; they’re in varying stages of production, and there are more in development for Disney +.”
On The Mandalorian front, Iger reported in his opening remarks that they were pleased with the initial reactions from critics who saw “a significant portion” of the first episode of the series, and the general buzz that the show’s been getting from fans ahead of its launch.
On the movie front, Iger says that fans will have to wait for a few years before Star Wars comes back to theaters. “While in the Star Wars case, Star Wars 9, which comes out this December, will be the last Skywalker Saga, and we’ll go into a hiatus for a few years before the next Star Wars feature. There’ll be a lot of creative activity in the interim.” When it comes to Marvel, he pointed to the number of projects that have already been announced, and that they’re eyeing projects like The Eternals as jumping off points for developing those characters further.
That squares with what Iger has said over the last couple of years: that during their first slate of Star Wars films, the company probably did too much, too soon. The box office returns for Solo and Rogue One were respectable, but they didn’t reach the heights that the Skywalker saga films reached.
Undoubtably, that hiatus is also due in part to the departure of David Benioff and D.B. Weiss, who had been working on a trilogy project that would have explored the origins of the Jedi knights. Their films were set to hit theaters in 2022, 2024, and 2026. Lucasfilm is in the midst of developing other projects — The Last Jedi director Rian Johnson has a trilogy in the works, while Marvel chief Kevin Feige also has a project in development. But it seems that those projects aren’t in a place where they can be put onto a schedule.
Plus, Disney is putting a lot of emphasis on Disney +, and it seems likely that Lucasfilm is devoting quite a bit of energy into what comes after the three announced TV shows (The Mandalorian, a Rogue One prequel, and an Obi-Wan Kenobi series). The streaming platform is a huge priority for the company, and should its live-action Star Wars show really drive subscriber numbers, I wouldn’t be surprised if that’s where the creative focus for the company remains.
Amongst its other announcements, Iger announced that Hulu will become the official home for all FX’s content, starting in March 2020. That includes shows like Archer, American Horror Story, Always Sunny in Philadelphia, Fargo, and others. The network will also begin to make some exclusive content for Hulu — which includes Alex Garland’s upcoming TV series, Devs. The company also reported that the streaming service will be available on Amazon’s devices, and that the streaming platform will start to roll out to European subscribers on March 31st.
Disney + launches next week, with a slew of original projects debuting along with the company’s massive catalog of existing films and TV shows.