NEW YORK - For the first time in the franchise's history, a "Star Wars" film won't be released in the summer.
Walt Disney Studios announced Thursday that "Star Wars: Episode VII" will open in theaters on Dec. 18, 2015. The original 1977 film helped set the precedent of the summer blockbuster. But this latest installation in George Lucas' space opera will be a holiday season affair.
The project recently shuffled screenwriters, worrying much of the "Star Wars" fan universe. Screenwriter Michael Arndt exited, with director J.J. Abrams and Lawrence Kasdan taking over the script.
Walt Disney Studios chairman Alan Horn said the December date will "ensure our extraordinary team has the time needed to deliver a sensational picture."
"Star Wars VII" is set to begin shooting in the spring at Pinewood Studios.