Dear Lucasfilm: Can we please keep "Star Wars" Christmas?

I have been accused, quite possibly fairly, of being a grinch. It's not that I don't like the holiday season, I just get grinchy when Christmas music gets played outside the acceptable confines of Black Friday through about 10pm Christmas Day.

For the past decade, Christmas has diminished in its importance for my family. My parents have yet to recover from the cataclysm that was "The Recession". My father is now too old, too experienced, and therefor too damned expensive, that getting work is still a struggle. And since America criminally undervalues education, my mother's income as a teacher isn't enough for them to survive. Christmas has become a tragic symbol of our struggle to try to get the family together, if only once a year.

Between Christmases without the parents, celebrations occuring on different days due to work schedules, and a long standing moratorium on giving presents, my joy for the day itself has slowly eroded away—by my late teens my favorite part of Christmas was the watching someone as they would open that awesome gift they didn't know they wanted. But now, the only reason Christmas was the time of year we'd get together was the fact that it was the only time my dad could get away from whatever office he was working at and my mom, my sister, and I would be off from school. It could've been April for all we cared. The Christmas season stopped being special.

And then The Force Awakens happened.

For the past two years, having had Star Wars for Christmas, it's given me something to look forward to. While my parents aren't the biggest fans, yet Star Wars is something that my sister and I have shared since we were kids. Star Wars at Christmas time offered me the joy of something new to share with her, and with my friends. I love "Star Wars Christmas".

But time and again, Lucasfilm keeps trying to shoehorn Star Wars back into May. I mean, I get it. Star Wars is the film that gave us the idea of the summer blockbuster. Up until The Force Awakens, every film had been released in May. There's tradition there. But having all the films release in December is letting us build a new one. And I want to keep this one.

So please, dear Lucasfilm/Disney/Santa, can we please keep Star Wars Christmas?

What the Hell Happened to Logan?

Long story short, it involves getting sick, family coming to visit, and a computer dying. So a lot of stuff has happened, so let's just dig right in to the last month's worth of news.

Rian Johnson to direct a new, standalone Star Wars trilogy

This was inevitable. Star Wars needs to exist without having the Skywalker's at the center.

Normally, news like this would've been announced after The Last Jedi had come out to rave reviews and a stellar box office start. The fact that Lucasfilm announced it months before the release speaks volumes about the working relationship that Johnson built up with Kathleen Kennedy, the head of Lucasfilm, but also the caliber of film that he put together. I know it help throw my own hype for The Last Jedi into overdrive.

Amazon working on a Lord of the Rings TV series

If anyone at Amazon ever reads this: Hire Me.
I seriously have most of the books you'd need for research sitting on a bookshelf.

While I am excited by the prospects of a Lord of the Rings television series, early details on the project describe it as a Fellowship of the Ring prequel series. This could mean a lot of things—from The Silmarillion and The Hobbit, t0 simply expanding upon the appendices in The Return of the King. This definitely can be handled right, but I'm cautious. Are they not going to make The Lord of the Rings? Is this supposed to be an anthology series? I can't wait until we can get more details. But, again: Hire me.

EA shits the bed

The Battlefront II microtransaction fiasco got so much attention, that a Reddit post by EA got over half-a-million downvotes, it made headlines in the mainstream press, and even lead to some governments investigating whether or not loot boxes are a form of gambling. The negative press got so bad that Disney stepped in and told EA to right the ship.

Frustration has been building up in the gaming community for a while over microtransactions, DLC, and "pay-to-win" schemes intended to make publishers and developers more money—and EA is often at the core of many of these complaints. While most can and will forgive cosmetic microtransactions, Battlefront II's would actually impact gameplay and were a complete mess. The fact that iconic heroes like Darth Vader or Luke Skywalker were locked behind a 40+ hour grind and/or a paywall, lead to all the complaints being dialed up to eleven. The negative press got so bad that EA removed to ability to purchase items in-game only hours prior to the game's official launch. But all this didn't stop the many cries of "Boycott!"

The Disney-Fox Merger

Expected to be announced tomorrow, but rumors have been swirling around for awhile that Disney is going to buy 21st Century Fox from News Corp. Murdoch keeps news and sports—his bread and butter—Disney gets everything else. This news has fans everywhere salivating. Will we see Wolverine in The Avengers? Will the Fox Fanfare play in front of Star Wars films again? How many merger jokes will be in Deadpool 2?

While fanboys and fangirls everywhere have much to be excited about, having one less major studio around is troubling. A shrinking Hollywood might be good for Wall Street, but not really for the people trying to make a living creating the content we consume.

And Finally:

Doug Jones wins in Alabama. Parliament throws a wrench into Teresa May's Brexit plans. It's almost like December rolled around and 2017 went "Oh shit! I should probably work on cleaning up some of that mess that 2016 left."


Predicting "The Last Jedi"

The trailer for The Last Jedi is out! Tickets are on sale! I've unsubbed from r/StarWars because I'm on spoiler alert! That means it's time to start guessing how much The Last Jedi is going to make at the box office!

Back when The Force Awakens came out, we all knew it was going to be big, but we were struggling with how to define it. When you're working on box office projections, you look at the soon-to-be-released film, compile a list of similar films to compare it to, and then use the box office performances of those films to come up with a guess of how the film in question will perform. For example, I would bet that 99% of people coming up with box office projections for Blade Runner 2049, a sequel to an 80s sci-fi thriller, compared it to Mad Max: Fury Road, a sequel to an 80s spec-fi action film.

There was nothing for The Force Awakens.

There was some who immediately wanted to compare it to Avatar. It too was a major blockbuster that had a December release, so surely The Force Awakens would perform similarly. A smaller opening weekend compared to your summer blockbuster—Avatar only made $87 million opening weekend—but it'll make up for that with long legs. But that comparison didn't feel right. Compared to The Force AwakensAvatar had been a quiet release. Star Wars hype was everywhere leading up to December. With every trailer, the fanbase would get more excited—from what we could tell, every problem and quibble we had about the prequels was being addressed. Industry tracking about audience awareness indicated that 100% of Americans knew that a new Star Wars film was coming out. You would've had to live in the mountains with no internet or human contact for at least five years to not know that a new Star Wars film was coming out. The hype was real.

Yet people still persisted in comparing The Force Awakens to other December releases. No December release had an opening weekend over $100 million, they'd say. Maybe Star Wars can, but there's no way in hell it'll cross $200 million. The most it could do was $175 million, and that's if the pun-intended stars aligned. r/boxoffice was convinced that anyone who thought it could hit $200 million on it's opening weekend was a fanboy, and had no idea what they were talking about. It's not that these people were necessarily wrong or foolish. They were trying to apply conventional wisdom to a film that increasingly looked like it would have an unconventional performance. I bucked the conventional wisdom. and sometime in November I had settled around a $215 million opening weekend. But as the opening day approached, I had good reason to doubt my numbers. A contact in-the-know offered insight into Disney's internal numbers: The Force Awakens had already sold $175 million in tickets for opening weekend, and we were still a week-and-a-half from release. After the initial sale of tickets in October, ticket sales had seemingly flatlined, but as we approached opening day, people were buying tickets almost as fast as theaters were putting them on sale. To this day I'm surprised this info never leaked—there's a reason why I noted that my $215 million estimate was conservative.

A few weeks before The Force Awakens opened, I was talking with the theater's then programmer and its former programmer—these were the guys who scheduled the showtimes and did the internal box office projections for our location1—and one posited the theory that we needed use a "historical comp" for The Force Awakens. Conventional box office prediction looks at recent releases; anything older than three to four years is out of date. Even comparing The Force Awakens to Avatar was pushing it, and the only reason Avatar was even brought up was that people were struggling to come up with recent films that felt like an accurate comparison. During our conversation, we concluded that the only film that had the same cultural awareness and hype was The Phantom Menace.

The only thing you can use to predict Star Wars is Star Wars.

When Rogue One was getting closer to release, I decided to test this theory. Management at the theater was prepping for Rogue One to be only slightly smaller than The Force Awakens. I argued that The Force Awakens was a statistical outlier. Since we couldn't find good comparisons for The Force Awakens, we then shouldn't use it to make predictions. It was its own beast, and to even think that anything would come close again in the near future was foolish. I decided that the best comparison film was, of all things, Revenge of the Sith. I felt that Revenge of the Sith had two things going for it. 1) It had been received warmly by the fanbase. 2) The latter two prequel films had little appeal in the general audience. Rogue One's marketing, and Disney's own expectations, made me think that they were expecting this film to appeal mainly to the fans, and not so strongly with the general audience. And since the fans had been energized by The Force AwakensRogue One would be greeted by an appreciative audience.

BoxOfficeMojo has a handy little feature that lets you adjust a film's box office gross as if it had been released a different year. The tool is by no means scientific, but it's good enough for what I needed. I adjusted Revenge of the Sith to get a 2016 estimate and got this: Star Wars: Revenge of the Sith - $380,270,577 Actual / $513,157,600 Adjusted to 2016Rogue One would go on to gross $532,177,324, a variance of $19,019,724, or 3.574%. So, while not perfect, it's pretty damn good.

At the time, I hadn't thought to try and use Revenge of the Sith to estimate an opening weekend gross for Rogue One. How audiences see movies has changed since 2005—over time, opening weekends have increasingly represented larger and larger chunks of the total gross. So, instead of looking at Revenge of the Sith's opening weekend numbers, a better idea would be to apply a multiplier to the anticipated total gross. If you've never followed box office results before, a multiplier is basically another way of saying how much of the film's total was made on opening weekend. For example, a multiplier of 2 would mean that a film's total gross will be double what it made opening weekend. A multiplier of 3 would mean its total gross would be three times the opening weekend numbers. In short, a higher multiplier is better. The average 'well-performing' blockbuster typically has a multiplier in the 3.0-3.5 range. So, if we take the adjusted Revenge of the Sith gross, and divide it by your average multiplier, 3.3, you would get an approximate opening weekend total of $155,502,300Rogue One made $155,081,681. So while the math is by no means perfect, it can at least get us in the ballpark.

So now, for The Last Jedi, the trick is figuring out what exactly we should use as a comparison. So let's look at all the Star Wars films, in release order and with adjusted grosses:

Star Wars: The Force Awakens - $936,662,225
Rogue One: A Star Wars Story - $532,177,324
Star Wars: Revenge of the Sith - $380,270,577 Actual / $513,157,600 Adjusted to 2016
Star Wars: Attack of the Clones - $302,191,252 Actual / $449,906,100 Adjusted to 2016
Star Wars: The Phantom Menace - $431,088,295 Actual / $733,743,200 Adjusted to 2016
Star Wars: Return of the Jedi - $252,583,617 Actual / $700,506,300 Adjusted to 2016
Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back - $209,398,025 Actual / $682,158,400 Adjusted to 2016
Star Wars: A New Hope - $307,263,857 Actual / 1,234,649,200 Adjusted to 2016

Here's that info as a handy dandy chart:

"Star Wars" Box Office Grosses (Adjusted)

Total Grosses adjusted using

While we might be quick to jump on the first obvious trend—that the second film each trilogy sees a considerable drop—I think using that to deduce potential box office numbers for The Last Jedi is a trap. The drop from A New Hope to The Empire Strikes Back is a whopping 44.75%, and Attack of the Clones sees an equally stunning 38.78% drop from The Phantom Menace. If The Last Jedi were to see a similar drop from The Force Awakens, the box office gross would only be $545 million. There are easy explanations for the earlier drops. Not only did The Empire Strikes Back receive a mediocre response upon its releaseA New Hope was such a massive hit, anything following was going to see a considerable drop. And Attack of the Clones was not only poorly received, but many in the fanbase felt like they’d been burnt by The Phantom Menace. However, a $545 million gross would align this film with the performances of Revenge of the Sith and Rogue One. If this ends up being the final result, I see two possible reasons: Critics and the fans find The Last Jedi to be lacking, or the potential gross of the average Star Wars film is around $550 million. Either way, a result like this would be troubling for Disney and Lucasfilm.

However, I think we can take a more optimistic appraisal. First, both The Force Awakens and Rogue One were well received by fans and critics alike, so there's definitely more goodwill going into The Last Jedi. Secondly, Deadline already has tracking indicating that presale tickets are outperforming Rogue One, and are "just under" The Force Awakens. Finally, I think we should look more closely at the box office performances of The Empire Strikes Back, Return of the Jedi, and The Phantom Menace. Why these three films instead of any of the others is simple. Both A New Hope and The Force Awakens are such extreme examples, that it's best to consider them to be statistical anomalies—including them would only skew the results. Attack of the Clones and Revenge of the Sith had been released to a leery fanbase and disinterested public after The Phantom Menace. While there is definitely an instinct to lump in The Phantom Menace with the other prequels, from a box office perspective, the film was largely unaffected by the scorn it developed among the fanbase. And Rogue One was intended to be a "smaller" release compared to the "Saga" films. That leaves The Empire Strikes Back, Return of the Jedi, and The Phantom Menace. If these three films are indicative of the average performance of a Star Wars saga film, than the average potential domestic gross is around $705 million.

But how about the opening weekend? The Force Awakens had a multiplier of 3.78 and Rogue One had a multiplier of 3.43. I would hazard a guess that The Last Jedi will perform closer to Rogue One than it will to The Force Awakens—it was the sequel many had been waiting over 30 years for, it was destined to over-perform. So let’s guess that a typical Star Wars film performs with a 3.4 multiplier. So, a $705 million gross with a 3.4 multiplier gets us an opening weekend number of $207 million.

The method used to get these numbers is by no means scientific, but this gives us decent guidance for The Last Jedi, and possibly for future Star Wars releases.


Growing up, whenever we traveled for vacation, I would inevitably have a bag filled with a half-dozen books in tow. They could be library books or books that I'd read a thousand times, but inevitably, I would’ve made my way through most of the books by the time our vacation was over.

Now, I've never really stopped reading. I spend hours a day perusing various news sites, online tech journals, and reading entertainment industry trades. In all honesty, I probably read as much today as I ever read in the past. The only difference is I stopped reading books.

This has always been one of those odd battles for me. I’ve never struggled with reading, but even as a kid, my mom—ever the teacher and librarian—would struggle to get me to read fiction. She even credits my discovery of Star Wars—and my desire to consume everything related to it—with getting me to read something other than a history book. But after the English classes of middle school, high school and college filled with classic pieces of literature, fiction has once again fallen to the wayside. I would still read, but I wouldn't be shocked if I was averaging only one-to-two books of fiction per year after I transferred to film school. In high school, I would’ve been reading one-to-two a month.

While the internet is a worthy replacement for non-fiction and news, I decided that my reading habits needed a kick in the proverbial behind. So, a few weeks ago, I started reading. A lot.

In the past three weeks, I’ve read the first three books in The Expanse series by James S. A. Corey, two books by John Scalzi (if you are a Trek fan, you need to read Redshirts), and, even though it was non-fiction, I also read Wil Wheaton’s Just A Geek. And because today is Hobbit Day, I’ve also started doing an in-depth re-read of The Lord of the Rings, something that’s been on my to-do list for awhile. Now, much of this reading onslaught is due to me currently enjoying hashtag funemployment, so it’s inevitable that I will eventually slow down. But I hope that this current effort pays off to become a good habit.


"Star Wars: The Last Jedi" director addresses Episode IX rumors

From Julia Alexander at Polygon:

“It was never in the plan for me to direct Episode IX,” Johnson said. “I don’t know what’s going to happen with it. I’m not sure what’s going to happen with it. I was entirely focused on Episode VIII and having this experience and now I’m just thinking about putting the movie out there and seeing how the audience responds to it. So now I’m not really thinking about that right now."

It's not a no, but it's also not a yes.

Marvel and Star Wars movies will be exclusive to Disney’s upcoming streaming service

It's the way of the future. Just watch as each major media conglomorate launches and maintains their own seperate streaming services. This is why Netflix and Amazon (and now Apple) are throwing so much money into content. Hollywood won't want to share, so they'll need their own.

A surprise update restores "Star Wars: Empire at War" multiplayer

Empire at War is right up there with Civilization IV for hours I've spent playing a game. It's not uncommon for me to load it up and play a few skirmish matches against the AI at the end of a long day. I've never had the opportunity to play online multiplayer, so I can't wait to dive in and get my ass kicked.

Star Wars' Obi-Wan Kenobi Film in the Works

Yes, I know I'm a day late.

Per the arcile written by Borys Kit for Hollywood Reporter:

"Stephen Daldry is Star Wars’ newest hope.

The Oscar-nominated director behind Billy Elliot and The Hours is in early talks to helm a Star Wars stand-alone movie centering on Obi-Wan Kenobi, The Hollywood Reporter has learned."

So the long desired Obi-Wan Kenobi film is finally moving forward. Maybe. A key thing buried in the article:

"Sources stress, however, that since there is no script, no actor is attached."

If this was news about a director and indicated that Ewan McGregor was involved, I'd think this was a controlled leak by Disney. Since we only have the news about the director, I think Mr. Kit just happened to land the a major scoop about Lucasfilm's future Star Wars plans.

The fan base has been clamoring for a stand alone Obi-Wan Kenobi film starring Ewan McGregor since the announcment of the anthology films. McGregor himself has expressed interest in returning to the role. The optimistic appraisal is that Lucasfilm is getting their storytelling ducks in a row before they approach McGregor, if they haven't already. I also doubt that they have a major interest in recasting Obi-Wan Kenobi. Rogue One had Genevieve O'Reilly and Jimmy Smits reprise their respective prequel trilogy roles of Mon Mothma and Bail Organa, it wouldn't make sense to have an older Ben Kenobi plaid by anyone other than McGregor (or, god forbid, a CGI Alec Guinness).

The other option, and all credit to fellow Team Blue Post member Chris Okamura for this idea: What if we're getting a movie with a younger Obi-Wan Kenobi focusing on him and Qui-Gon Jinn? That might be why there's no actor attached. 

But all this is pure speculation until we get an official announcment from Disney and Lucasfilm.

Fantasy Flight Games Announces "Star Wars: Legion"

Per their press release:

"Fantasy Flight Games is proud to announce Star Wars™: Legion, a new miniatures game of infantry battles that invites you to join iconic heroes and villains, lead your troopers into battle, and battle for the fate of the Star Wars galaxy."

I loved what little miniature gaming I did in high school. Between this and "*Star Wars*: Armada", I'll be set for a long time. The only thing I didn't about miniatures was when they needed painting.

"With Star Wars: Legion, you can build and paint a unique army of miniatures."


The Force Awakens Scorecard, Pt. 1

It’s been a few weeks since The Force Awakens came out, and yesterday I was finally able to go see it for a second time, so I it’s time to check the scorecard!

Again: There Be Spoilers Below!

  1. The Empire and New Republic Co-Exist. The film is never really clear on what the political situation is like in the universe, and I find it to be the film's biggest flaw. I think I was right about the Resistance, but wrong about the First Order and the Empire. I’ll give myself a half point.
  2. Both sides are trying to find Luke. Nailed it. +1
  3. Kylo Ren is the apprentice. Nailed it. +1
  4. Rey is a Skywalker. Jury is still out on this one, and it'll be Episode 8 or Episode 9 before we know for sure.
  5. Starkiller Base is a planet transformed into a doomsday weapon, or is a doomsday weapon that was terraformed. Nailed it. +1
  6. Han dies. NAILED IT! +1

For a grand total of 4.5 out of 6. And the one I missed is a plot point that won’t be resolved until later films. Not bad.

As for the film itself, it’s rare that I am able to sit back and watch a film without turning on ‘film student mode’ and critiquing everyhting. It's even rarer if I can do that on a second viewing. Both times I've seen The Force Awakens, I just sat back and enjoyed the film. I think John Siracusa summed it up best on The Incomparable Podcast: “The Force Awakens is a good movie with many small problems, none of which overwhelm it's essential goodness.”

Predicting The Force Awakens

I’ve been up since 2am. I’m writing this at 4pm. This post will go live at 7pm. My screening is at 9pm.

This is what I’m expecting from Star Wars: The Force Awakens.

Warning: There Be Spoilers Below!! Maybe

First, business.

I expect The Force Awakens to have an opening weekend gross of $215 Million. The crazy thing? This estimate is conservative. I also expect The Force Awakens to beat Avatar’s domestic box office gross of $760.5 Million, and to come in closer to $800 Million. While it’s been fun watching The Force Awakens become a box office juggernaut in the United States, as international gross becomes more important to Hollywood, how it performs worldwide is going to be key (As of writing, Disney has revealed that The Force Awakens brought in $14.1 Million in it’s first day in foreign markets). I don’t think that The Force Awakens will beat Avatar’s worldwide gross numbers ($2.8 Billion), but I do think it has a good shot of taking number two away from Titanic ($2.2 Billion).

Finally, pleasure. Or: What I expect to happen in the film.

The Empire and New Republic Co-Exist. The truce is an uneasy one, but it’s there. I think “The Resistance” is made up of former members of the Rebel Alliance who never stopped fighting the Empire. The “First Order” is an Imperial faction attempting to take over the Empire. Their goal is to reestablish the Empire as the sole galactic power. And for the sake of drama, they've all but succeeded by the start of the film.

Both sides are trying to find Luke. I think it's the secret mission that Leia sends Poe Dameron on. Also, the line Kylo Ren utters while staring at Darth Vader's helmet —"I will finish what you've started"— is a reference to Vader hunting down the few Jedi who survived Order 66. Who's the sole living Jedi? Luke.

Kylo Ren is the apprentice. Always two there are… We haven’t seen Andy Serkis’s character yet, but we did hear him speak in the voiceover for the first trailer. I think he’s the master.

Rey is a Skywalker. Kinda a gimme.

Starkiller Base is a planet transformed into a doomsday weapon, or is a doomsday weapon that was terraformed. I base this purely on the fact that everyone has been calling the spherical object in the posters a “new Death Star”, but I think the blue around the edges looks suspiciously like an atmosphere. “That’s no moon. It’s a Space Station Moon!”

Han dies. If The Force Awakens stays true to form, a mentor figure will die during the film. If the trailers have given us any hints, it’s that Harrison Ford plays that figure in this film. I don’t think they would’ve held off revealing Luke in any of the trailers or advertising, if they were going to kill him off in this film. Plus, it was probably easier to convince Harrison Ford to return if he would only have to come back for one.

Other than these few things, I really have no idea what to expect. Maybe I’m right, maybe I’m wrong. Either way, I can’t wait for 9pm.