Solo: A Star Wars Story came out recently, and it hasn’t been doing all that well at the box office. I confess, the film hold zero interest for me even though friends of mine have seen it and thought it was a fun ride. This has got me thinking about why I have no desire to see this film in the theatre.
With the Advent of the MCU 1, every franchise on the planet seems to be trying to create a massive cinematic universe. Some have crashed and burned 2, but others have managed to gain some traction. The Wizarding World has gained some steam with the Fantastic Beasts film, and The DCEU 3 keeps plugging along 4. Star Wars, which predates every moving picture connected universe except for Star Trek, seems poised to be the next great connected cinematic reality. It may very well be just that, but the slice of the connected world pie is shrinking. This means an increased number of Star Wars films might earn more money for the franchise over all, but each film will earn less of a percentage of that total.
Which brings me to comic books.
When I was a kid 5 comic books fascinated me, and one day I decided to take some of my hard earned money and buy some of these portals into other worlds. My first two purchases were an issue of the X-Men and The Amazing Spider Man, which led me into the realm of Marvel Comics. I knew there was a whole other universe of super heroes out there, with characters as compelling as those in which I’d invested 6, but just didn’t have the funds to pay for access to them. I had to choose a comic universe, and stick with it, as a matter of economic necessity. Even in my teens, when work money allowed me a bit more flexibility in my comic habit, I stuck with Marvel. I would dabble in Batman on occasion, but by that point Marvel was familiar to me and I didn’t feel the need to venture elsewhere. I think something similar may be happening with all these shared universe franchises we’re now seeing on screen. On any given year I’ll see probably see six films in the theatre, and even that’s stretching my mental allocation for theatre trips. I’m invested in the MCU because I like the characters and the different genres they’ve managed to use in that shared universe. This limits what else I can see.
Let me put this in comic collecting terms. If I’m an MCU collector, their three titles are my automatic pick ups, all my casual collecting has to fit into those remaining three slots. Artsy films, other shared universe films, or just cool theatrical experiences all have to be distilled into that space. In practical terms I have neither the time nor the budget to buy into another grand, multiple films a year, shared universe. Star Wars once a year was an event, and I liked that. Star Wars every few months is more than I’m willing to invest.
And I think this is what’s happened to Solo, which by all accounts is a good film. People are picking and choosing which universe they’re going to collect, and Disney wasn’t prepared for people being all that choosy. They expected Star Wars to equal automatic big summer box office receipts, but people aren’t collecting this new “every few months” Star Wars product just yet. They may in the future 7, but they aren’t right now.
The shared universe profit pie just isn’t as big as Disney thought it was.