Disney to Acquire Lucasfilm for $4.05 Billion, Sets New ‘Star Wars’ Trilogy30 Oct, 2012 By: Chris Tribbey, Erik Gruenwedel
In a surprise announcement that will keep “Star Wars” fans fed for years to come, The Walt Disney Company Oct. 30 announced it was acquiring filmmaker George Lucas’ Lucasfilm Ltd. and the “Star Wars” franchise for $4.05 billion, with plans for a new trilogy of movies starting in 2015.
The new “Star Wars” trilogy will begin with Episode VII, picking up where the 1983 Star Wars: Episode VI — Return of the Jedi left off. Episodes VIII and IX are planned to follow, with Disney extending the franchise with more films every two to three years. The 2015 release of Episode VII will come exactly a decade after the release of the last “Star Wars” film, Star Wars: Episode III — Revenge of the Sith.
“We believe there’s substantial, pent-up demand [for ‘Star Wars’]” said Robert A. Iger, chairman and CEO of The Walt Disney Co., who added during a conference call that the acquisition “combines two of the strongest family entertainment brands in the world.”
Disney is also considering a “Star Wars” TV series to run on the Disney XD channel. Disney also picks up rights to the “Indiana Jones” franchise under the agreement.
Iger said Disney was frugal with its future home entertainment estimates for the next “Star Wars” films when it crunched the numbers on the acquisition. 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment currently has distribution rights for the first six “Star Wars” films. Disney will be the sole distributor of the franchise’s future installments. Paramount has distribution rights to the four “Indiana Jones” films.
“We’re particularly conservative when it comes to secondary markets, home video being the primary one,” Iger said. “The numbers that we’ve applied here are substantially lower than what we’re seeing today in the business.”
But the $4.4 billion the “Star Wars” franchise has earned at the global box office to date, along with untold merchandising, video games and other licensing opportunities presented Disney with too good an option to pass up.
Disney will pay approximately half the $4.05 billion buying price in cash and issue approximately 40 million shares. Disney will acquire the “Star Wars” franchise, Lucasfilm’s live-action film production business, consumer products, visual effects, animation and audio postproduction businesses. Disney also picks up much of Lucasfilm’s entertainment technologies, under the Industrial Light & Magic, and Skywalker Sound banners.
Kathleen Kennedy, current co-chairman of Lucasfilm, will become president of Lucasfilm, reporting to Walt Disney Studios chairman Alan Horn, while Lucas will stay on as an consultant.
“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, chairman and CEO of Lucasfilm. “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. … ‘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."
This is another in a line of high-profile, industry-changing acquisitions by the studio Walt built: Disney acquired Marvel Entertainment for $4 billion in mid-2009, and the animation studio Pixar for $7.4 billion in early 2006.