January 21, 2016 – Disney/Lucasfilm has announced that Star Wars: Episode VIII, originally set to be released on May 26th, 2017, has been pushed back to December 15th, 2017.
The seven-month extension will allow Writer/Director Rian Johnson additional time to rewrite the script for Episode VIII. The original storyline was to have focused more heavily on Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill) and General Leia (Carrie Fisher) and, the rumor mill has it, new female characters – complementing the more diverse crew we saw in Episode VII.
The remarkable success of The Force Awakens, however, has up-ended the proposed plot. TFA has broken successive box-office records and is on track to rake in well over a billion dollars domestically (U.S.) by the time the Academy Awards are announced on February 28th. Positive fan reaction to Rey (Daisy Ridley), Finn (John Boyega), Kylo Ren (Adam Driver) and Poe Dameron (Oscar Isaac) means that Episode VIII will have to focus more heavily on these characters.
Other returning actors will include Andy Serkis (Supreme Leader Snoke), Domnhall Gleeson (General Hux), Lupita Nyong’o (Maz Katana), Gwendoline Christie (Captain Phasma), Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill), Carrie Fisher (Leia Organa), Peter Mayhew (Chewbacca) and Anthony Daniels (C-3PO). One newcomer, Benicio Del Toro (Guardians of the Galaxy), will make his debut in an unknown role.
Star Wars: Episode VIII (currently no full title) is currently in preproduction and will begin principal photography in London in February, 2016. Kathleen Kennedy and Ram Bergman will produce and J.J. Abrams, Jason McGatlin, and Tom Karnowski will executive produce.
Traditionally, all Star Wars films (Episodes I through VI) had been released in May – in time for huge summer audiences. But the winter holiday season also draws large audiences, and it appears that Star Wars fans will be just as content to enjoy the movies in December (The Force Awakens, Dec. 18, 2015; Rogue One, Dec. 16, 2016; and Episode VIII, Dec. 15, 2017).