By Nick Hintz

Now that “Star Wars: The Force Awakens” is nearing the end of its theatrical run, we begin to look forward to “Rogue One: A Star Wars Story” and subsequently the future of the franchise.

As of now, the film part of the Star Wars Universe will end with Episode IX’s release in 2019. In between, there will be one Star Wars film per year with “Rogue One,” “Episode VIII, and a Han Solo film all within a year of one another. However, with the astounding success of “The Force Awakens” and all the money that Disney has put into the franchise, (as well as the real estate set aside for the universe in their theme parks) it’s hard to picture an end to Star Wars franchise. So what does that mean going forward?

The way I see it, based on the current release schedule and films of the past, there are two possible paths in which the franchise could move. For my purposes, I have dubbed these the “Billy Joel” path and the “James Bond” path.

The “Billy Joel” Path:

For more than a year now, Billy Joel has been performing at least one show a month at Madison Square Garden and almost every show has been sold out. “The Piano Man” has said that he will continue to do these shows until people lose interest and so far he has kept his word.

In relation to Star Wars then, the current release schedule can be compared to Billy Joel’s schedule. Though instead of once a month, a new film is once a year. Should the upcoming films do great at the box office (and perhaps better than “The Force Awakens”) it is possible that Disney would want to keep the momentum going.

The result would be to continue releasing one Star Wars film per year until the films are no longer a huge box office draw but given the large number of Star Wars fans, that could be a few years. The advantage here is that the studio gets a solid cash flow from Star Wars films (and subsequent tie-in material) for several years. The disadvantage is that the constant release of Star Wars films could begin to turn people off of the franchise (an issue which I would argue is already happening in the Marvel Cinematic Universe).

Also with more frequent releases there is a lower demand for new films. One of the reasons why “Force Awakens” did so well in its opening weekend was due to the fact that it was the fist Star Wars film in ten years. If not executed correctly, the desire for new films could slowly fade.

The “James Bond” Path:

Perhaps no film franchise has been around longer than James Bond. Beginning with “Dr. No” in 1962 and continuing through last year’s “Spectre,” the franchise has continued to remain popular. With installments spaced out over a few years and changes in characters for each generation, James Bond has proved how to keep an old franchise alive.

In my opinion, the model of the James Bond franchise will ultimately be what Star Wars follows. Following this path, after 2019, it may be a few years before another Star Wars film. Spacing out releases allows for different generations to relate to the films in their own unique ways as each group will likely, in some way, reflect the time period of its release.

Like James Bond, there will likely be good films and bad films. However, as proven by the prequels, the franchise could still survive. Following this path, Disney could continue to pump money out of the Star Wars franchise for decades to come. If Star Wars has proven one thing, it’s that the franchise is generational, connecting a number of generations together over the years. Allowing enough space between releases will certainly support the generational appeal of the franchise.

Of course, it seems inevitable that the franchise will have to end at some point, I could hardly imagine going see “Star Wars: Episode XX. But who knows? It could happen.

The future of the films will ultimately be decided by one factor, the box office. As long as these films make money, you can be certain that there will be more on the way.