In what has to be the biggest story in the entire media sector for the month of October, word has hit that Lucasfilm is being gobbled up by Disney for $4.05 billion–a story reminiscent for just over three years ago when the Mouse House did the same with Marvel. As opposed to superheroes, the huge property in all this is obviously Star Wars and the creation of more full length features minus creator George Lucas at the helm.
Perhaps most shocking about this story is that the plans are already being drawn up to go ahead with another effort in the series. Executive producing will be co-chair of Lucasfilm Kathleen Kennedy with Lucas serving as a mere creative consultant. What this means is that the brand identity will certainly remain in tact outside of the sphere of Mickey, but a new take on Star Wars will finally be had as one of the most high profile director searches in recent memory is certainly at the center of such monumental shifts.
George Lucas has released the following statement on today’s big surprise:
For the past 35 years, one of my greatest pleasures has been to see Star Wars passed from one generation to the next. It’s now time for me to passStar 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.”
That is not all we know at the moment, as it has been confirmed that the plan is for Star Wars: Episode 7 to hit theaters sometime in 2015. Since the movie will obviously play ball with Disney’s slate of The Avengers 2 in May and Ant-Man in November, the clear favorite for release looks to be July by briefly looking at the schedule although that is just a hunch. The industry is pretty much assuming Avatar 2 will bow in December that year, so a summer date appears to be the most likely here.
This will be the first of three planned Star Wars movies with a separation of two to three years between each outing. The deal also include Indiana Jones rights, so those films will obviously be coming as well although no details have been laid down just yet. [Update: Bob Iger makes note that there are some encumbrances that remain on Indiana Jones via a distribution pact with Paramount. It should be noted that some of The Avengers properties previously had the very same situation specifically in regards to Iron Man 2.]
Let’s keep in mind that Lucasfilms does happen to be a lot more than Star Wars thus the high price tag paid for the company. Their businesses include live-action film production, consumer products, visual effects, animation, and audio production. Disney also will now own Industrial Light + Magic, Skywalker Sound, and LucasArts. They are paying half in equity, half in cash to George Lucas who currently possesses 100% ownership over Lucasfilm.
Because of all that depth in technology, this is not nearly as risky as the Marvel acquisition was which hinged entirely on intellectual property that needed to be tapped. For that reason, this is a clear home run purchase for Disney as Star Wars has the potential to be as profitable as the studio’s superhero arsenal by itself.