In The News
Disney buying Lucasfilm Ltd., plans new 'Star Wars' films
The Walt Disney Co. says it is buying Lucasfilm Ltd. and its "Star Wars" franchise from founder, Chairman and CEO George Lucas in a $4.05 billion deal, and that it plans to release new "Star Wars" movies every two to three years starting in 2015.
The deal is Disney Chairman and CEO Robert Iger's second major acquisition of a Northern California-based technology driven entertainment operation that also owns a large amount of successful, creative intellectual property. Iger said in a prepared statement that Disney plans to release a new "Star Wars" film every two to three years, starting in 2015.
Disney previously bought Pixar in 2006 for $7.4 billion in a bid to shore up Disney's animated offerings, which had been weak under the leadership of Iger's predecessor,Michael Eisner. Pixar actually started life in 1979 as the computer division of Lucasfilm and later became a path-breaking animated film stucio after being sold in 1986 to Apple Inc. co-founder Steve Jobs.
Founded in 1971, Lucasfilm is a sprawling, global organization involved in live action film production, consumer products, animation, video gaming, visual effects and post production audio. "Star Wars" feature films alone have earned a total of $4.4 billion in global box office revenue to date. The last "Star Wars" movie release was 2005's "Revenge of the Sith" – and Iger said Disney sees "substantial pent up demand."
"Star Wars Episode 7" is targeted for release in 2015, with more feature films expected to continue the Star Wars saga in the future, Disney said. Lucas, who has previously telegraphed his plans to retire, will be a creative consultant on those films.
Lucasfilm has about 1,500 employees and is headquartered in the Letterman Digital Arts Center in San Francisco's Presidio. It operates under the names Lucasfilm Ltd., LucasArts, Industrial Light & Magic, and Skywalker Sound, and Disney said the present intent is for Lucasfilm employees to remain in their current locations.
Iger emphasized the content Disney will get -- content that this year will generate about $215 million of consumer products licensing alone. Disney CFO Jay Rasulo said Lucasfilm was valued almost entirely on the "Star Wars" franchise. The company's operating income in 2005 when it last released a "Star Wars" film was $550 million, he said.
"Lucasfilm reflects the extraordinary passion, vision, and storytelling of its founder, George Lucas," said Iger. "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."
Lucas, 68, underscored that he hopes Star Wars will have a new life in the Disney organization.
"For the past 35 years, one of my greatest pleasures has been to see 'Star Wars' passed from one generation to the next," Lucas said "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," he said.
"I'm confident that with Lucasfilm under the leadership of (Lucasfilm's newly appointed President) 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
The acquisition builds on a long-standing relationship between the two companies that already saw the integration of "Star Wars" content into Disney theme parks in Anaheim, Orlando, Paris and Tokyo.
Kathleen Kennedy, current co-chair of Lucasfilm, will become president of the organization and report to Disney Studios Chairman Alan Horn. She will be the brand manager for the "Star Wars" franchise globally and will be executive producer on new Star Wars feature films.
Saying he was preparing for his retirement, Lucas in June hired Kennedy, a bigtime Hollywood player who produced his "Indiana Jones" movies and Steven Spielberg's "Jurassic Park" hits, to be co-chair of Lucasfilm. Kennedy has been nominated for seven Academy Awards.
Disney will pay approximately half of the Lucasfilm price in cash and issue approximately 40 million shares. The boards of directors of both companies have approved the transaction, which awaits regulatory review.
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