September 25th, 1998 was when the title for the The Phantom Menace was revealed. That was about 8 months before the film was released on May 19th, 1999. Some of the wait was because Lucas was procrastinating, some of it was because they wanted to halt bootleggers from releasing merchandise which would undercut their products and bottom line. Regardless of what people say, Revenge of the Jedi was a nightmare for Lucasfilm to deal with. That title change and the switcheroo confused things more than it helped. So I don’t want to talk about Blue Harvest and Revenge of the Jedi in the discussion any longer.
That was the old Lucasfilm anyways. Things have obviously changed since they were purchased by Disney upon Lucas’ retirement. However, Lucas is consulting on the new film, so there is a chance his methods will still be around to an extent. The folks at Disney have marketed more movies in the last year than Lucasfilm had to in 30 years. I could be wrong, but I think Disney will call the shots on when the title is released.
We could look towards the Marvel franchise to figure out their timetable for releasing titles and subtitles. But their products are character heavy. When they made Iron Man, it was called Iron Man. When they made Iron Man II, it was called Iron Man II, the title was a given (as far as I know). Other films have carried subtitles such as Captain America II, but I’m not sure it is applicable.
The fact remains that in the past, we learned the subtitles to the episodes with a little less than a year to go. So I estimate we will not hear a title for the new film until late 2014. But with the changing of the guard, who knows? Abrams let “Into Darkness” out of the bag around eight months before the film’s release. So if Abrams decides the title, that falls into a place similar to the George Lucas method of releasing titles.
Things could change. If they want to aggressively merchandise the new film in 2014, well before the film hits, they may release the title for those reasons. Episode VII is good enough to sell products under, and I don’t anticipate such an unveiling hitting too early.
That’s my stance on title speculation and rumors for now.