When Disney unexpectedly bought out Lucasfilm – and with it the Star Wars and Indiana Jones film rights – nobody ever questioned the move. If there’s one thing that Disney loves above all else, it’s money. If they wanted Lucasfilm, they had plans for it. And if they slammed the down payment on the table, they expected to make it back tenfold before too long.
That was five years ago. Two years ago, they released the first film in their newly extended film trilogy: The Force Awakens. It introduced a new, much more vibrant cast of characters and began the slow, heart-rending process of rotating out beloved characters that have been a part of the popular culture since 1977. It immediately followed the movie up with Rogue One, a nearly concurrent prequel to the original movie that showed that there was room in the Star Wars universe for down-and-dirty spies, guerrillas and thieves just as much as there was for Jedi, Sith and emperors. This year saw the release of The Last Jedi, a dark continuation of The Force Awakens that brought an unexpected resolution to the Skywalker saga.
Less than two weeks after the most recent movie’s release and it has already taken hold of the American box office. It hit the half billion-dollar mark last weekend and is expected to double that number by Monday morning. What’s more, however, is that Disney has, at long last, broken even on the gob smacking price that they paid for the franchise in the first place.
Four billion fifty million dollars. That’s what Disney shelled out five years ago for Lucasfilm. A mere half decade and three films later and the studio has made back that initial down payment and started to generate a healthy profit for the entertainment conglomerate.
In all, the three most recent Star Wars films have earned $4.06 billion. And being so early into The Last Jedi’s box office run, that number is only expected to grow in the coming weeks. And that’s not even counting 2018’s Han Solo: A Star Wars Story, 2019’s Episode IX, any of the other films in the works for Star Wars or any of the presumably upcoming Indiana Jones offerings. From here on out, everything Disney rakes in from Lucasfilm is pure, unadulterated profit.
Then, of course, there’s all the merchandising. Star Wars action figures, t-shirts, lunch boxes, backpacks and the like are a huge revenue stream for the iconic House of Mouse. In fact, many industry observers believe that Disney’s earnings from its merchandise eclipses what it makes from ticket sales on the latest movies. Functionally, this makes the movies multimillion dollar toy commercials: a means to a strictly financial end.
Now that Disney has bought out Fox as well, it’ll be interesting to see how the film studio elects to spend its money. Will it continue with its current 3 Marvel, 1 Star Wars, a couple Disney / Pixar and a smattering of “other” movies per year? Will they cut back to make room for their new Fox properties (like Alien , X-Men and Predator)? Or will they just increase their output now that they have so many new IPs to work with? No matter what they do, however, you can expect them to make fistfuls of cash along the way.