As many moviegoers know, a film’s theatrical run is just one method it can make money for the studio. Once its time in the multiplex is over, a project can have a second life in people’s living rooms. In this day and age, instant streaming services like Netflix and iTunes movies allow viewers to watch anything on demand, but there’s still a lucrative market to give the biggest tentpoles a home on television cable networks. For instance, the rights to broadcast Star Wars: The Force Awakens were acquired earlier this year by Starz. They showed the film for the first time September 10, 2016.
It would appear that the agreement between Lucasfilm and Starz will be short lived, however. Anxious to showcase one of the biggest movie franchises of all-time as part of their lineup, Turner has swooped in to sign a monumental deal with Disney and 20th Century Fox (which owns A New Hope) that will allow them to air all of the Star Wars films, including the ones that have yet to be released.
According to Variety, the contract is believed to be valued at $250 million and will allegedly run through 2022. It includes the rights to 11 movies – the first seven episodes of the Skywalker saga, and the upcoming Rogue One: A Star Wars Story, Star Wars: Episode VIII, the young Han Solo anthology film, and Star Wars: Episode IX. Turner also has on-demand rights to put the films on their ad-supported streaming and VOD services.
The company will hopefully see the fruits of their investment later this month, as they have a TNT marathon for the original six installments planned to begin on September 20. A second marathon is scheduled for December, leading up to the premiere of Rogue One. The Force Awakens will move to Turner early in 2018, following its run on Starz. In 2019, Rogue One can air on the networks for the first time. Judging by that timeline, the new films will be broadcast on the networks three years after their initial release. Episode IX is slated for a 2019 debut, which theoretically means it makes its way to TV in 2022 – the proposed end of the deal.
Of course, the Star Wars franchise is expected to go well beyond Episode IX, though Lucasfilm has remained mum on their future plans. Disney CEO Bob Iger has mentioned that there will be more movies following Star Wars 9, but he doesn’t know what they will be or when they’ll come out. Looking ahead, it will be interesting to see if Turner renews their agreement or if a competitor comes through with a higher bid. Star Wars is always a hot property and it isn’t showing any signs of slowing down, so there will likely be much interest in the rights when they become available.
Some may find the details of Turner’s contract curious, since they have to wait out Disney’s previous deal with Netflix that runs through 2018, and the Mouse House still retains the option to sell their newer movies to other networks for limited runs once the Netflix agreement has concluded. Additionally, with the multitude of viewing options available to people (and the popularity of “cord cutting”), some may not be interested in tuning into basic cable to visit the galaxy far, far away, commercials and all. Still, Star Wars is Star Wars, and the marathons are likely to post high ratings. Chances are, Turner won’t regret their decision.
Rogue One: A Star Wars Story opens in U.S. theaters on December 16, 2016, followed by Star Wars: Episode VIII on December 15, 2017, the Han Solo Star Wars Anthology film on May 25, 2018, Star Wars: Episode IX in 2019, and the third Star Wars Anthology film in 2020.