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'Godzilla' director to helm first standalone 'Star Wars'

LucasFilm and Disney go with tentpole movie names for spinoff series. "Godzilla's" Gareth Edwards will direct the first film, while "The Book of Eli's" Gary Whittas will pen the script.

LucasFilm and Disney announced today that 'Godzilla' director Gareth Edwards will helm the first standalone 'Star Wars' film. LucasFilm

"Godzilla" director Gareth Edwards will helm the first of a series of annual standalone "Star Wars" movies that will start hitting theaters in late 2016.

In an announcement on, LucasFilm and Disney said Edwards will direct the as-yet unnamed film, while "The Book of Eli" screenwriter Gary Whittas will pen the script. The movie is slated to open December 16, 2016.

The movies, spinoffs on "Star Wars" characters, are meant to stand apart from the forthcoming trilogy of "Star Wars" films that will open in December, 2015, and which will continue the storylines from the original three films and the "Star Wars" prequels. Neither LucasFilm nor Disney have said much about the standalone movie, and they did not announce any casting news.

"Star Wars" fans hoping for a high-quality film will have to hope that Edwards can do at least as well as he did with "Godzilla," which has a decent, but not great, 73 percent rating on Rotten Tomatoes. They'll also have to hope that Whittas can write a script that can score much higher than the tepid 48 percent Rotten Tomatoes rating for "The Book of Eli."

By putting a director and a screenwriter with big film credits to their names atop the movie, it's clear that Disney and LucasFilm want the first standalone "Star Wars" to have tentpole potential, especially since it will fill a gap in the release calendar between 2015's "Episode VII" and "Episode VIII," which presumably will come two or three years later.

Most of the cast for "Episode VII" was unveiled on April 29, and it's probable that none of those actors -- Harrison Ford, Mark Hamill, and Carrie Fisher, reprising their roles as Han Solo, Luke Skywalker, and Princess Leia, respectively, along with "Girls" star Adam Driver, Max von Sydow, and others -- will appear in the spinoff movies.

Clearly, though, a lot of money is at stake. The previous "Star Wars" movies, including re-releases, and "The Attack of the Clones," have earned a total of $2.2 billion, according to Box Office Mojo.