That’s the question that’s being asked by many people and which I’ve been mulling since reading it posed as part of a general Star Wars news roundup on Wired. After all, as the story says, we’re just over a year away from its release and at this point in The Force Awakens’ marketing cycle things were already well underway, at least from a publicity standpoint. The first teaser trailer for TFA didn’t show up until Thanksgiving of 2014, 13 months before the movie hit theaters. So following that example, we’re due in just about a month.
But Rogue One will still be a month away from release at that point. And the first teaser for that movie didn’t drop until April of this year, eight months prior to theatrical release. That was largely because it needed to wait until the end of The Force Awakens’ release cycle – it wouldn’t actually finish playing in theaters until June – so as not to compete for the audience’s attention. Even the biggest fan only has so much room in their brain and lives for Star Wars material and the last thing Disney/Lucasfilm wants to do is create confusion in the marketplace.
While year-plus long marketing worked for The Force Awakens that’s because that movie was much more of an event, a watershed cultural moment. It was the return of Star Wars to theaters after a 10 year absence, with a new saga to tell, an exciting director at the helm and new characters to fall in love with. It needed to be outsized and lengthy because it needed to bring the franchise back and remove the taste of the Prequels from people’s mouths.
Episode VIII, whatever it will be called, is now just part of the machine. Yes, it’s an official episodic entry, not like the “A Star Wars Story” demarcation that Rogue One and other films will be tagged with. But it will be, at the core, simply 2017’s Star Wars entry. With Disney fully committed to putting these out each year the danger exists for the marketing campaigns to overlap and start to confuse people. “Wait, that’s not for this year’s movie, it’s for next year’s? Oh forget it…” is the attitude that could emerge.
So I would expect Disney would take a more traditional approach to the campaigns for future films. The paradigm won’t be The Force Awakens’ 18-month push but Rogue One’s eight month cycle, I believe. That way each film has its own year-long window running roughly from April to April. I may be wrong here, but it makes sense that each new product get a unique runway that doesn’t cause problems for what’s come before or what’s coming after.