Kathleen Kennedy has signed a new contract with Lucasfilm to remain president of the studio for three more years, according to The Hollywood Reporter.
Kennedy took over as Lucasfilm president in 2012 following the studios’ purchase by Disney. She has produced all of Disney’s Star Wars films, as well as dozens of the most popular films of the past 35 years, starting with E.T. The Extraterrestrial.
Kennedy’s reported new contract will keep her in her position through 2021.
LucasFilm’s confidence in Kennedy’s accumen is at an all time high. She took over from George Lucas after Disney’s $4 billion buyout in 2012, and she’s overseen the relaunch of Star Wars, the most powerful single franchise in motion picture history. Since Disney’s been making Star Wars movies, the new films have made nearly $4.5 billion dollars in gross ticket sales, with billions more flowing into the studio’s piggy bank from the toy licensing and other merchandising.
She hasn’t exactly had the best luck picking directors. Unlike Lucas, she was never a film director herself. Chris Lord and Phil Miller were fired from Solo: A Star Wars Story on June 20, 2017, less than a year before the film’s release, and were replaced with Ron Howard. She also had to pull Rogue One: A Star Wars Story director Gareth Edwards and replace him with Tony Gilroy, though Edwards kept his directing credit. Last year, Colin Trevorrow, who was to have directed Star Wars: Episode IX, was fired and replaced with J.J. Abrams, a week later. This one thing seems to be her Achilles Heel, if she can be said to have one.
Kennedy got the contract renewal despite the relatively poor performance of this summer’s Solo: A Star Wars Story, the first time the franchise has ever produced a film that wasn’t a nuclear fusion level blockbuster. It grossed $392 million worldwide, which is impressive by most standards. Still, leading analysts estimate a loss for the film at $50 million to $80 million or more. 2017’s The Last Jedi and 2016’s Rogue One grossed $1 billion globally, and 2015’s The Force Awakens topped $2 billion, so less than half a billion was considered a “failure”.
Kennedy’s deal extension also follows a polarizing reaction to Last Jedi — which sits at 91 percent fresh on review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes but was flooded with unusually angry fan complaints on social media about key plot choices. The reaction to Last Jedi and Solo is resulting in a shift in studio strategy, with Disney making plans to slow the output of movies. “You can expect some slowdown,” Disney CEO Bob Iger told THR in an interview published on Sept. 20, adding, “but that doesn’t mean we’re not going to make films.”
Kennedy herself is listed on IMDB as producer of the following upcoming films and productions:
- Star Wars Episode IX, slated for release in 2019
- The Adventures of TinTin: Prisoners of the Sun
- The Talisman
- Untitled Boba Fett Film
- Untitled Obi-Wan Kenobi Film
- Untitled Star Wars Trilogy: Episode I
- Untitled Indiana Jones Project, slated for release in 2020
From this, we can gather that Lucasfilm – and Disney – are committed to producing side story films in the Star Wars franchise, and that while production on these films has slowed somewhat in light of the more down-to-earth numbers from the Solo movie, none of them have actually been removed from the Lucasfilm production slate.
In September, Kennedy was named as a recipient, along with husband, producer Frank Marshall, of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences’ Irving G. Thalberg Award for a “body of work reflect a consistently high quality of motion picture production.” She will receive the honor at the 10th annual Governors Awards on Nov. 18.