11:37am PT by Pamela McClintock
'Star Wars: Episode VIII' Gets New Release Date
Star Wars: Episode VIII is being pushed back seven months, from Memorial Day weekend in 2017 to Dec. 15 of that year.
Instead, Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales will open on May 26, 2017, Star Wars' old release date. The Pirates movie, one of Disney's biggest franchises and returning Johnny Depp in the role of Captain Jack Sparrow, was set to have opened July 7.
Disney insiders say the decision to push back the release of Star Wars comes after the blockbuster success of Star Wars: The Force Awakens over the year-end holidays. They say they have now decided to give Episode VIII the same Christmas treatment.
The move gives the studio more time to work on the film. It also balances out Disney's tentpole schedule in 2017. As it stood, the studio was set to release Guardians of the Galaxy 2 (May 5), Star Wars, Pirates and Cars 3 (June 16) all in summer. The studio didn't say whether the changes impact its plans to release an untitled fairy-tale movie on Dec. 22, but don't be surprised if that date changes.
Force Awakens, directed by J.J. Abrams, has made more than $1.8 billion worldwide, including a record $852.3 million in North America.
Rian Johnson will take over the directing duties on Episode VIII, which sees the return of the central new characters introduced in Force Awakens, played by Daisy Ridley, John Boyega and Oscar Isaac. Mark Hamill is also confirmed to reprise his role as Luke Skywalker.
News that Episode VIII will now open Dec. 15 likely won't be well received by Steven Spielberg and Warner Bros., who are set to open Ready Player One on that date. Opening a week later on Dec. 22 are Croods 2 and The Six-Million Dollar Man.
Within minutes of the Star Wars and Pirates of the Caribbean announcement, Sony said it was moving up the release of Spider-Man from July 28, 2017, to July 7, 2017, while pushing back Jumanji seven months from Dec. 25, 2016, to July 28, 2017.
The next Star Wars film, the spinoff Rogue One, opens Dec. 16. 2016.