LOS ANGELES, May 22 (Reuters) - With J.J. Abrams kicking off the first of three new "Star Wars" films, Disney announced on Thursday that "Godzilla" filmmaker Gareth Edwards will direct a separate spin-off installment of the franchise, scheduled for December 2016.
The yet-to-be-titled "Star Wars" film, which is being written by "The Book of Eli" screenwriter Gary Whitta, is being described as a stand-alone movie in addition to the next three installments beginning with Abrams's "Star Wars: Episode VII," to be released in December 2015.
British director Edwards made his feature film debut with his re-imagining of "Godzilla," which stormed the North American box office with $93.2 million in sales over the past weekend.
Walt Disney Co purchased "Star Wars" creator George Lucas's production company LucasFilm for $4.05 billion in 2012 and announced it would release spin-off films between the releases of three new films in the popular sci-fi series.
(Reporting by Piya Sinha-Roy; Editing by Ken Wills)