Solo: A Star Wars Story has mustered only $264 million at the worldwide box office, but one prominent voice on Wall Street blames the misfire on “poor marketing,” not a larger issue with the franchise.
Doug Creutz, a veteran media analyst at Cowen, issued a report to investors that reaffirmed his “market perform” rating on Disney shares. While the report is based on his financial view of the company, it allows the analyst a chance to wade directly into the pop-culture waters to offer his take on why Solo stumbled. Point by point, the report knocks down some of the suggested cultprits, from production woes to tight release calendar spacing just five months after The Last Jedi, to lingering fan animus toward TLJ, “If the franchise was able to survive Phantom Menace and Attack of the Clones, we have a hard time believing Last Jedi could have done that much damage,” Creutz writes.
Projecting a final domestic tally of about $200 million, Creutz notes that Solo‘s international gross is accounting for just 75% of its global cume, the lowest percentage on any franchise entry or spinoff to date. Given the hefty production and marketing costs, he concludes, the film “may well finish in the red.”
Even so, he writes that the film’s struggle “has occasioned some concern that audiences may be suffering from ‘Star Wars’ fatigue. We think this is probably not the case, and that Solo’s biggest problem was an uncharacteristically (for Disney) poor marketing campaign.”
Summoning a notable degree of fan acumen, he argues that the marketing for Solo failed to persuasively sell Alden Ehrenreich as a young Han Solo, a character originated onscreen more than 40 years ago by Harrison Ford. By contrast, Creutz pointed to the first teaser for Rogue One, which came out 247 days before the movie. (But who’s counting? Creutz, apparently.) “The first 35 seconds of the trailer almost exclusively focuses on Felicity Jones as the protagonist Jyn Erso, selling her as a new franchise hero,” he writes. “The second half is dominated by the Imperial alert klaxon and Forest Whitaker’s voice over, and practically screams ‘EPIC’ at the viewer, before closing on another hero shot of Jones.” The first teaser for Solo, he noted, came out just 108 days out from release. The teaser, by our count, only had about 10 seconds of screen time where Ehrenreich’s face was clearly in the picture — not, in our opinion, nearly enough.”
Creutz also muses about the production issues that have dogged three of the four Star Wars entries since Disney bought Lucasfilm. “We’re not sure why this has been the case, particularly compared to Marvel which appears to be an incredibly well-oiled machine,” he writes. One suggestion, he adds: “promote Dave Filoni to a higher level of importance at Lucasfilm.” Filoni has shepherded Star Wars animated series Rebels and Clone Wars and is exec producer of the upcoming Resistance.
Ending on an optimistic note, Creutz predicts that the climactic Episode IX in 2019 “will do quite well at the box office, probably exceeding Last Jedi.” Untold millions of fans — and Disney investors — hope they can take that forecast to the bank.