DISNEY yesterday shocked the film industry by announcing it was buying Lucasfilm, the owner of the Star Wars and Indiana Jones franchises, for $4.05bn (£2.52bn).
The American media giant’s purchase follows on from multi-billion dollar acquisitions of superhero franchise Marvel and animation studio Pixar in recent years.
Disney, famous for animated films featuring the likes of Mickey Mouse, also said it would make new Star Wars films over the next few years, in what is bound to be a lucrative move.
The next film – the seventh in the series – will hit cinemas in 2015, with episodes eight and nine due after that. “Our long term plan is to release a new Star Wars feature film every two to three years,” Disney said.
The deal will be made half in cash and half in Disney shares. Lucasfilm is entirely owned by George Lucas, who founded the studio in 1971 before directing its first film, American Graffiti, in 1973 and the first Star Wars in 1977. The series was rebooted in 1999 with three new films, and while not critically acclaimed, they were an enormous commercial success. “We believe there is substantial pent up demand,” Disney said. The franchise also includes video games, television series and theme parks.
“Lucasfilm reflects the extraordinary passion, vision, and storytelling of its founder, George Lucas,” said Robert Iger, Disney’s chief executive
“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, who has maintained an iron grip on the Star Wars franchise since the first film, said: “It’s now time for me to pass Star Wars on to a new generation of filmmakers.” He will stay on as a creative consultant.