TOTAL FILM – Despite getting its release date pushed seven months back to December 2017, Star Wars: Episode VIII has kicked off filming only a month later than originally planned. While several key shots were filmed late last year – to link the film to its predecessor The Force Awakens – Rian Johnson’s eagerly-awaited sequel has officially started principal photography today.

The news hails from Disney CEO Bob Iger, who made the announcement to investors during Disney’s quarterly earnings call. “There is no better way to propel this franchise into the future than producing quality products,” he said. “Filming of Star Wars: Episode VIII, the next chapter of the legendary saga, has just commenced and it will be in theaters December 2017. And production of Episode IX, a 2019 release, has also begun.” John Boyega, who returns to play stormtrooper-turned-Resistance fighter Finn, also confirmed the start of filming on Twitter.

As for the Colin Trevorrow-directed Episode IX, Iger’s comments aren’t exactly definitive. Does this mean it’s already entered pre-production? That seems a stretch, given that the movie isn’t due to hit cinemas for another three years. Seeing as Trevorrow is wrapping up work on his next film The Book Of Henry, it’s likely that he’s just diving into the story and concept stage for Episode IX.

Iger then goes on to discuss Gareth Edwards’ anthology tale Rogue One: A Star Wars Story. “Filming is virtually completed and we absolutely love what we’ve seen so far. This is the first of a set of planned stand-alone stories and we’re already in preproduction on our next one, for release in May of 2018.” That “next one” is the young Han Solo movie which has Phil Lord and Chris Miller attached to direct.

Directed by Rian Johnson, and starring Daisy Ridley, John Boyega, Oscar Isaac, and Benicio Del Toro, Star Wars: Episode VIII opens on December 15, 2017. The Gareth Edwards-directed Rogue One: A Star Wars Story hits theaters on December 16, 2016. Star Wars: Episode IX opens on May 24, 2019.

STAR WARS – Today, Disney and Lucasfilm announced that Star Wars: Episode VIII, originally scheduled for release in summer 2017, will now debut on December 15, 2017.

The move follows the extraordinary success of Star Wars: The Force Awakens, which was the first Star Wars movie to premiere outside the traditional summer blockbuster window and smashed numerous records, including biggest domestic and global debuts of all time as well as the biggest domestic second and third weekends, en route to becoming the highest grossing domestic release of all time with over $861.3 million and the third biggest global release ever with $1.886.7 billion.

Written and directed by Rian Johnson, Star Wars: Episode VIII is currently in preproduction and will begin principal photography in London next month. Kathleen Kennedy and Ram Bergman will produce and J.J. Abrams, Jason McGatlin, and Tom Karnowski will executive produce. Stay tuned for exciting updates in the coming weeks.

THE WRAP – “Star Wars: The Force Awakens” has been added as an 11th Best Picture nomination at the Critics’ Choice Awards, the Broadcast Film Critics Association announced on Tuesday.

The film had screened too late for voters to see it before casting their original ballots, so it was not included among the nominees announced on Dec. 14. But after what the organization described as an outcry from the membership, the BFCA held a special referendum on Monday, asking members if they would have included “Star Wars” on their Best Picture ballot if they had been it before voting.

Enough members said they would for the J.J. Abrams films to be added to the list of nominees.

“Star Wars: The Force Awakens” has been added only to the Best Picture category. It will not be considered in any other categories.

This is the second time the BFCA has added an 11th nominee after the original results had been announced. In 2000, the Robert Zemeckis film “Cast Away” was added to the Best Picture lineup after screening too late to have been included in the original nominations.

The move will presumably increase viewer interest in the 21st Annual Critics’ Choice Awards, which will be held on Jan. 17 and televised live on A&E, Lifetime and LMN.

The Critics’ Choice Awards already have a number of categories designed to include popular films and increase viewership, including comedy, action-movie and sci-fi/horror categories.

I have added more promotional pictures and production stills from ‘Star Wars: The Force Awakens’.