‘Star Wars: Episode VIII’ release delayed to Dec. 2017

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NEW YORK — The release of “Star Wars: Episode VIII” has been delayed from May 2017 to December 2017.

The Walt Disney Co. announced the new release date, Dec. 15, on Wednesday. The date change pushes back the anticipated “Star Wars” installment set to follow the box-office hit “The Force Awakens.”

The eighth chapter in the saga is to be written and directed by Rian Johnson. Production is scheduled to begin next month in London.

Though “Star Wars” was once synonymous with the summer blockbuster, the date change means that the franchise will again look to dominate movie theaters in the holiday season. It has proven a lucrative match for “The Force Awakens,” which has made a record $861 million domestically and $1.88 billion globally in five weeks of release.

Disney offered no reason for the delay, but rumors 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 Dec. 16 this year.