I learned of this decision just now from Lucasfilm‘s promotional partners who are telling me the studio now owned by Disney wants to focus only on “rebooting the franchise” with three new Star Wars films. This surprising decision follows the underwhelming box office performance of Episode I: The Phantom Menace re-released in 3D in February 2012. It debuted to only $23M domestically but maybe even more importantly hardcore fans felt it was yet another craven cash grab by George Lucas.
If true, this is quite surprising. I think analysts who loved and hated the prequels alike expected The Phantom Menace to not do as well as the future releases, but this was the keystone announcement made at Star Wars Celebration VI. And I don’t think “hardcore fans” had the reaction that it was a cash grab on the part of Lucas. For one, we were excited to see the films on the big screen again. For two he donated all of that Star Wars money to charity.
If I’m correct, FOX has the deciding vote on the distribution for this. And it would make sense for the franchise to continue having Star Wars releases every year between now and 2015.
But Deadline is usually reliable. Let’s hope they got this one wrong.
UPDATE: Sadly, this announcement was just made via the official Star Wars website:
Lucasfilm has decided to postpone this fall’s scheduled release of Star Wars Episodes II and III in 3D. Given the recent development that we are moving forward with a new Star Wars trilogy, we will now focus 100 percent of our efforts on Star Wars: Episode VII in order to ensure the best possible experience for our fans. We will post further information about our 3D release plans at a later date.
That is not a cancellation, though. It’s a postponement. We’ll see how this plays out at that later date.