Star Wars Episode VII is still tearing it up at the box office, with the global total now over $1.8 billion.Quite naturally, anticipation is already high for the sequel, and now we're going to have to wait a bit longer for it.
News is emerging this morning that Star Wars Episode VIII has moved from its May 2017 release date to the significantly later slot of December 2017. It's a big change for the franchise, which has almost always released in summer, which has long been considered the best time for blockbusters.
That said, Episode VII has had huge success with a Christmas release and Disney will want to retain that lead with the future ventures. It also helps to give this new series its own identity - George Lucas' films owned the summer time, so maybe the continuing adventures in that galaxy far, far away could own the winter holidays instead. The Force Awakens was also originally set to debut in the middle of 2015 and was pushed due to some production issues, so that could be what's happening here again.
New writer/director Rian Johnson (Looper, Brick) has been on the project for many months, and there's a rumour he's been doing some furious rewrites in the wake of The Force Awakens - apparently to expand on the roles of the most popular characters. They've already shot some footage on Skellig Michael off the coast of Ireland and full production is set to start in a few short weeks.
One interesting extra fact is that if Episode VIII does arrive in December 2017, it will release just a week before James Cameron's proposed Avatar sequel. That's a lot of pressure on two massive movies to make equally massive amounts of money and with the might of Disney behind it, and a release schedule to keep, we don't see Star Wars moving. Avatar has been delayed time and again, so one more isn't going to make much of a difference.