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'Star Wars: Rogue One' coming in 2016, 'Episode VIII' in 2017

"Star Wars" Episode VII, "The Force Awakens," opens in theaters Dec. 18, 2015.

Release dates have been set for two additional “Star Wars” films, according to reports.

In a meeting with shareholders, Disney chief Bob Iger revealed that “Star Wars: Episode VIII” will be released May 16, 2017, roughly a year and a half after the arrival of the long-awaited seventh episode, “Star Wars: The Force Awakens,” which hits theaters this coming December.

Sandwiched between those titles will be a third, stand-alone film set in the same fictional universe, “Star Wars: Rogue One,” to be released Dec. 16, 2016. That film will be directed by Gareth Edwards (2014's “Godzilla”) and will star Felicity Jones, an Oscar nominee for her role in “The Theory of Everything,” according to TheWrap.com. The writer is Chris Weitz, whose credits include “About a Boy” and Disney's live-action “Cinderella.”

The release dates of the three “Star Wars” films ensure that Disney will keep the franchise alive in the minds of moviegoers even while screens are flooded with superhero movies from its own Marvel division and from other studios. According to tentative scheduling, “Rogue One” will cap a 2016 that includes the superhero films “Gambit,” “Deadpool” and “Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice” – not to mention the third “Star Trek” film.

“Episode VIII,” to be written and directed by Rian Johnson (“Looper”), will arrive in the same general time frame as sequels to “Guardians of the Galaxy,” “Terminator” and “Fantastic Four.” Its release date will come 40 years and one day after the release of George Lucas' original “Star Wars” in 1977.

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