New York — There is a disturbance in the force.The release of Star Wars: Episode VIII has been delayed from May 2017 to 15 December 2017, the Walt Disney Co. announced Wednesday. The date change postpones the next Star Wars instalment set to follow the box-office hit The Force Awakens.Though Star Wars was once synonymous with the summer blockbuster, the date change means that the franchise will again look to dominate movie theatres in the holiday season. It has proven a lucrative match for The Force Awakens, which has made a record $861m domestically and $1.88bn globally in five weeks of release.Disney offered no reason for the delay, but rumours have recently swirled that writer-director Rian Johnson (Looper), who is taking over for J.J. Abrams, is rewriting the script. Production is set to begin next month in London.In the interim, Gareth Edwards' Star Wars spin-off Rogue One is due out 16 December this year.With prominent release dates now staked out by studios years in advance for their largest franchises, the impact of the switch immediately caused ripples.The new date sets up a potential but unlikely head-to-head between Star Wars and Avatar. James Cameron's Avatar 2 had been planned for Christmas 2017, though few expect 20th Century Fox to hit that date with the much-delayed Avatar sequel. A spokesman for Fox didn't immediately respond to an email Wednesday.One movie definitely affected is Steven Spielberg's Ready Player One, a science-fiction release for Warner Bros. It's scheduled for the same 15 December weekend in 2017.Disney moved one of its other billion-dollar franchises, Pirates of the Caribbean, to 26 May 2017. The Johnny Depp series returns with Dead Men Tell No Tales.At the same time, Sony Pictures moved two of its biggest movies into summer 2017. The next Spider-Man, starring Tom Holland and directed by Jon Watts, shifted up three weeks to 28 July 2017.
Jake Kasdan's Jumanji remake shifted from Christmas 2016 to 28 July 2017.
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