'Star Wars: Episode VII' Gets December 2015 Release Date

UPDATED: J.J. Abrams is directing the Lucasfilm and Disney tentpole, which originally hoped to hit theaters in Summer 2015.
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J.J. Abrams and Lawrence Kasdan

Star Wars: Episode VII will hit theaters Dec. 18, 2015, Lucasfilm and Disney announced Thursday, ending heated speculation as to whether J.J. Abrams' movie will be done in time for a 2015 release.
“We’re very excited to share the official 2015 release date for Star Wars: Episode VII, where it will not only anchor the popular holiday filmgoing season but also ensure our extraordinary filmmaking team has the time needed to deliver a sensational picture,” said Walt Disney Studios chairman Alan Horn.

Earlier this year, the studio indicated it would release the movie in summer 2015. It's not clear how the December 2015 release impacts plans to also release Episode VIII and Episode IX during the summer months.

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Abrams and Lucasfilm president Kathleen Kennedy recently announced that Lawrence Kasdan, who co-wrote 1980's Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back, considered the best film in the Star Wars series, is coming aboard to rework the script with Abrams upon the exit of Episode VII writer Michael Arndt.

A cast has not yet been announced. Abrams is set to start shooting this spring at Pinewood Studios outside of London.

For his part, Arndt worked exclusively on Episode VII for most of the past year and already had penned a 40- to 50-page treatment before Lucasfilm was sold to Disney in October 2012. But as one of Hollywood's highest-paid screenwriters, who can command more than $300,000 a week doing rewrites, the Oscar-winning scribe (Little Miss Sunshine) was ready to move on to other projects.

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By setting their sights on a late December release, Disney and Lucasfilm are choosing the same corridor that Avatar, Titanic and The Lord of the Rings film launched in (ditto for The Hobbit films).

Dec. 18 already has couple of movies on it, although for how long it remains to be seen. Universal and Legendary have Warcraft, based on the video game and to be directed by Duncan Jones, planted on the date as does Sony with Inferno, its adaptation of the Dan Drown novel.