But it hasn’t always been easy money. Kennedy has had to replace directors on two movies that were either in production or post-. Chris Lord and Phil Miller were fired from Solo: A Star Wars Story on June 20, 2017, less than a year before the film’s release. Kennedy also effectively replaced Rogue One: A Star Wars Story director Gareth Edwards with helmer Tony Gilroy, though Edwards kept his directing credit. Last year, Colin Trevorrow, who was to have directed Star Wars: Episode IX, was fired and replaced with the series’ Episode VII helmer, J.J. Abrams, a week later.
Kennedy’s position is one of the most visible, and her actions the most highly scrutinized, in Hollywood due to the immense popularity of Lucasfilm’s franchises, which also include Indiana Jones. So it’s notable that her renewal follows this summer’s Solo: A Star Wars Story, the first big-screen box office disappointment for the franchise, grossing “only” $392 million worldwide and leading analysts to estimate a loss for the film at $50 million to $80 million or more. (In contrast, 2017’s The Last Jedi and 2016’s Rogue One grossed $1 billion globally, and 2015’s The Force Awakens topped $2 billion in receipts.)
Kennedy’s deal extension also follows a polarizing reaction to Last Jedi — which sits at 91 percent fresh on review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes but was flooded with unusually angry fan complaints on social media about key plot choices. The reaction to Last Jedi and Solo is resulting in a shift in studio strategy, with Disney making plans to slow the output of movies. “You can expect some slowdown,” Disney CEO Bob Iger told THR in an interview published on Sept. 20, adding, “but that doesn’t mean we’re not going to make films.”
The only Star Wars film currently underway is Episode IX, currently shooting in London, and due for release Dec. 20, 2019. Sources tell THR that Episode IX will be the last of the “chapter” installments, with Disney planning on touting it as a selling point in the promotion campaign for the film in the year leading up to its release. Lucasfilm is developing feature projects from Game of Thrones creators David Benioff and D.B. Weiss, as well as a potential trilogy from Rian Johnson, the filmmaker behind Last Jedi. Johnson, however, is currently prepping to shoot a detective thriller that is to star Daniel Craig.
Sources say that the near future of Star Wars lies in television with Kennedy-led Lucasfilm planning on expanding the universe with new characters in that medium. The shows at this stage include a live-action series run by Jon Favreau (which is currently casting) and the animated Star Wars: The Clone Wars, both of which will air on Disney’s untitled streaming service, which is set to launch in the second half of 2019. Meanwhile, another animated series, Star Wars Resistance, premieres this month on The Disney Channel.