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.

In other "Star Wars VII" news, the Twentieth Century Fox fanfare that has started every “Star Wars” film since “Episode IV: A New Hope” will be gone, because Disney bought Lucasfilm last year, according to The Wrap. Read more about that at

The BBC also is reporting that there will be open casting calls for the film in the U.K. and in some cities in the U.S., including Austin, Texas this month. Read about the open casting calls and how to try out by going to