BREAKING…. 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 in a half-hour 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. (more…)