This is huge! After acquiring Pixar and Marvel, Disney is buying George Lucas’s renowned film studio including his ‘Star Wars’ franchise, the entertainment giant said Tuesday, announcing plans for more films in the legendary sci-fi series. ‘Star Wars VII’ will be released in 2015, “with more feature films expected to continue the Star Wars saga and grow the franchise well into the future,” said the Walt Disney Co, announcing the deal worth over US$4 billion for Lucasfilm.
(Below, Disney chairman and CEO Bob Iger and George Lucas describe their new deal.)
The deal “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,” said Disney chief Robert Iger.
“Lucasfilm reflects the extraordinary passion, vision, and storytelling of its founder, George Lucas,” said Iger, head of global entertainment giant Disney, which is headquartered in Burbank, just outside Los Angeles.
The transaction is valued at $4.05 billion — based on current stock value — with Disney paying about half in cash and issuing approximately 40 million shares at closing. Lucasfilm is 100 percent owned by Lucas.
Lucas, who runs his company from its San Francisco base, added: “For the past 35 years, one of my greatest pleasures has been to see Star Wars passed from one generation to the next.
“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.”
The first ‘Star Wars’ film came out in 1977, and there have been two trilogies — three films from 1977-1983 and three prequels from 1999-2005 — while the brand has expanded into theme parks and a huge merchandising arm.
The movies have earned some US$4.4 billion at the box office globally over the last 35 years, and offer “a virtually limitless universe of characters and stories to drive continued feature film releases,” said Disney.
“The franchise provides a sustainable source of high quality, branded content with global appeal and is well suited for new business models including digital platforms,” it added.
The acquisition comes after Disney’s takeover of animated film giant Pixar and comic book character-driven Marvel Studios.
Those deals had “demonstrated the company’s unique ability to fully develop and expand the financial potential of high quality creative content with compelling characters and storytelling,” said Disney.
Lucas will be succeeded as head of Lucasfilm by his current co-chairman, Kathleen Kennedy, who will report to Walt Disney Studios Chairman Alan Horn, said the Disney statement.
“I’m confident that with Lucasfilm under the leadership of Kathleen Kennedy, and having a new home within the Disney organization, Star Wars will certainly live on and flourish for many generations to come,” said Lucas.
“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,” he added.
In September, even before the new Disney deal, Forbes estimated the divorced, 68-year-old filmmaker’s net worth at $3.3 billion, making him the 36th richest celebrity in the world.
In 2010, Lucas signed The Giving Pledge, the effort by Gates and Warren Buffett to get America’s wealthiest individuals and families “to commit to giving the majority of their wealth to the philanthropic causes and charitable organizations of their choice either during their lifetime or after their death.”
“I am dedicating the majority of my wealth to improving education,” explained Lucas in a public letter at the time of the pledge. “It is the key to the survival of the human race. We have to plan for our collective future — and the first step begins with the social, emotional and intellectual tools we provide to our children.”
(Below: The Star Wars creator discusses the future of the franchise and his company with the Disney-Lucasfilm deal now official. New LucasFilm president Kathleen Kennedy also weighs in.)