What financial decline? If you're talking about the fact that Star Wars movies no longer completely smash every other movie of their year out of sight at the box office, guess what - that happened while Lucas was still in control of the franchise. Attack of the Clones was only the fourth highest-grossing movie of its year, and Revenge of the Sith may have topped the domestic box office for its year, but lost out to Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire worldwide.
Look at the bold. That is the answer to any excuse you try to come up with for the film.