Disney has just confirmed that it has agreed to acquire George Lucas‘ Lucasfilm Ltd, and that includes rights to the Star Wars franchise that will now continue on. The companies have targeted a 2015 release for Star Wars: Episode 7, with Episode 8 and Episode 9 to follow as the the long-term plan is to release a new feature every two or three years. “The last Star Wars movie release was 2005’s Revenge Of The Sith– and we believe there’s substantial pent-up demand”, Disney said. The deal also includes rights to the Indiana Jones franchise.
The stock and cash transaction is worth an estimated $4.05 billion, and the companies have scheduled a conference call today to discuss the deal, which was approved by the Disney board and Lucas, the sole Lucasfilm shareholder. (UPDATE: Disney’s Iger: Three New ‘Star Wars’ Movies Mapped Out; TV Plans Too)
As for the new Star Wars installments, the companies said Lucasfilm’s Kathleen Kennedy would be executive producer on Episode 7 and any additional Star Wars movies, and Lucas would serve as creative consultant. There was no indication about where the story would pick up, though technically in the franchise’s chronology it would follow Star Wars: Episode 6 — Return Of The Jedi, the third film in the initial trilogy that came out in 1983.
As part of the deal, Kennedy will become president of Lucasfilm, reporting to Walt Disney Studios chairman Alan Horn. Kennedy, who was made Lucasfilm co-chairman June 1 as heir apparent to Lucas, will also serve as the brand manager for Star Wars, whose feature films have earned a total of $4.4 billion in global box to date. That doesn’t take into account the franchise’s massive merchandising clout that Disney CFO Jay Rasulo said will generate in 2012 close to the $215 million in consumer product revenue Marvel had when Disney bought that comics business in 2009.
Disney has built its business under chairman and CEO Bob Iger around such major acquisitions as Marvel, Pixar, ABC and ESPN.
“Lucasfilm reflects the extraordinary passion, vision, and storytelling of its founder, George Lucas,” Iger said in a release announcing the deal. “This transaction combines a world-class portfolio of content including Star Wars, one of the greatest family entertainment franchises of all time, with Disney’s unique and unparalleled creativity across multiple platforms, businesses, and markets to generate sustained growth and drive significant long-term value.”
Disney is paying approximately half of the consideration in cash and issuing approximately 40 million shares at closing based on Disney’s stock price on October 26. Lucasfilm is 100% owned by Lucasfilm chairman and founder Lucas.
“For the past 35 years, one of my greatest pleasures has been to see Star Wars passed from one generation to the next,” said Lucas. “It’s now time for me to pass Star Wars on to a new generation of filmmakers. I’ve always believed that Star Wars could live beyond me, and I thought it was important to set up the transition during my lifetime. I’m confident that with Lucasfilm under the leadership of Kathleen Kennedy, and having a new home within the Disney organization, Star Wars will certainly live on and flourish for many generations to come. Disney’s reach and experience give Lucasfilm the opportunity to blaze new trails in film, television, interactive media, theme parks, live entertainment, and consumer products.”
Lucasfilm’s businesses include live-action film production, consumer products, animation, visual effects, and audio postproduction. Disney also acquires the technologies from the San Francisco-based company, which operates under the names Lucasfilm Ltd., LucasArts, Industrial Light + Magic, and Skywalker Sound.
George Lucas’ Industrial Light & Magic is supervising the 3D conversion.
Lucasfilm Ltd. and 20th Century Fox will release the 3D version of Star Wars: Episode I:The Phantom Menace on Feb. 10, 2012.
George Lucas’ Industrial Light & Magic is supervising the 3D conversion, with an eye for both technological considerations and artistic intentions.
Lucasfilm believes Star Wars is perfectly suited to be seen in 3D.
The Hollywood Reporter first reported that Star Wars: Episode I: The Phantom Menace would be converted to 3D.
Lucas hopes that releasing the film early in the year, outside of summer blockbuster season, will give it an open run at the box office and also set up the opportunity to sell merchandise through the balance of the year. The plan under discussion would make the release of the subsequent films in the series an annual event on the film calendar.
If the first in the series meets with success, the remaining five films would follow a year apart on comparable dates. However, depending on how the first release performs, the companies could also decide to open the subsequent entries in different spots on the calendar.
When the new special-edition version of the original three Star Wars movies were re-released in 1997, that cycle began with a re-release of Episode IV: A New Hope on Jan. 31, followed by Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back on Feb. 21 and Episode VI: Return of the Jedi on March 14.
Launching the movies during the first quarter of the year would also give Lucas Licensing the opportunity to launch new licensing programs that could run throughout the course of the year.