No Wiggle Room: 'Star Wars Episode VII' Must Open In 2015

More details continue to leak out about the behind the scenes tension at Lucasfilm that led to J.J. Abrams and Lawrence Kasdan taking over the script for Star Wars Episode VII. More and more, it's sounding like decisions made by execs and money people back at the inception of the Lucasfilm purchase were way too ambitious, with the locked in 2015 release date causing a rushed process on the creative side, and forcing Disney execs to demand the film be completed in a time frame that seems unreasonable to those making the film.

THR reports on the situation, saying that "producer Kathleen Kennedy and most of the film's creative team have asked Disney to push the release to 2016, but studio CEO Robert Iger is adamant that Episode VII not budge."

Why won't it budge? Likely because buying Lucasfilm was a $4 billion dollar deal, with promises for a summer 2015 release — and the fall revenue that would come from disc sales and merchandising at the holidays — built in. What happens to Disney's stock price if the film slips to 2016? Iger doesn't want to find out. Could the film be pushed to a fall or winter date rather than the originally planned summer opening? Possibly. But there's this line: "Iger has crafted a Star Wars game plan that hinges on Episode VII hitting the big screen that summer." And what would a push mean for the spin-off films, which are meant to generate revenue starting in 2016? It's a house of cards — pull that bottom one out and the whole $4b joint starts to look like a money pit to investors.

This will dash some hopes that the recent announcement about screenwriting changes might result in a better film — this is a movie that has to come out on time, and the creative process has to fit the schedule.

THR doesn't have many more details, but there are a few nuggets in there, with two paired reports that are interesting. Various insiders say Abrams has become "more autocratic" in the past couple months, but also that he's more driven to work towards the 2015 date than Kennedy is. Individually and unsubstantiated, those comments could mean little. But together they, along with Abrams taking control of the script from Arndt (who, the piece says, was ready to get back to his regular and more lucrative work), paint a picture of Abrams as a man who is dealing with the insistent date by taking things into his own hands.