When Disney shocked the world and purchased Lucasfilm for $4 billion back in 2012, one of their missions was to bring the Star Wars universe back to the big screen. But as many fans know, the galaxy far, far away is much more than a series of space adventure films. Perhaps more so than any other movie franchise, the property is a merchandising juggernaut with a plethora of licensed products available. In the buildup to last winter's Star Wars: The Force Awakens, everything from Hasbro toys to cases of bottled water was labeled with a Star Wars logo.
If one really breaks it down, the $4 billion the Mouse Hose paid was the robbery of the century. They recouped half of that investment through Force Awakens box office grosses alone, and of course made much, much more at the stores as fans went crazy on Force Friday and bought action figures, app-enabled BB-8s, books, and anything else they could find. It shouldn't come as any surprise that Star Wars was responsible for a massive boost in licensed merchandise sales last year.
In a report from Deadline, it's revealed that worldwide retail of licensed merchandise (movie & TV characters, etc.) went up 4.2 percent in 2015, with a major assist to the return of Star Wars. The massive blockbuster brought in $700 million through sales last year, more than Jurassic World, Minions, and The Avengers combined. As a result, merchandise specifically tied to movies saw a 9.4 percent increase in proceeds.
Marty Brochstein, senior vice president of the Licensing Industry Merchandisers' Association, cautions that this year could see a little bit of a dip in business. “The natural order of things is that the second year won’t be as big as the first,” he said. In a way, that is true. A major part of The Force Awakens' appeal was the fact that it was the first new Star Wars film in a decade, which subjected it to unparalleled hype and anticipation. There are still many people looking forward to this December's Rogue One: A Star Wars Story, but now that Disney is annualizing the Star Wars franchise with a new movie each year for the foreseeable future, it will be impossible to replicate the exact conditions Episode VII was released in.
But even if Rogue One doesn't make quite as much money as Force Awakens (few films have), it doesn't mean that things will be a total wash. As a Star Wars film, it will still draw considerable interest from die-hard fans and casual audiences, especially if the long-rumored return of villain Darth Vader pans out. Vader is arguably the franchise's most recognizable character and is a merchandising giant himself. Disney and Lucasfilm will surely push the Sith Lord heavily in the months leading up to Rogue One's release to ramp up excitement. As the flurry of reshoots rumors hangs a dark cloud over the production, Vader's comeback could be just what the studio needs to shift the conversation back to the positive side of the spectrum.
This all goes to show that Disney made a very smart purchase a few years ago, one that will certainly pay off in the long run. They still have (at least) four more Star Wars films officially on the docket, as well as Indiana Jones 5, which hits theaters July 2019. In addition, Star Wars Land as Disney World will be up and running in the near future, becoming a constant stream of revenue as fans check out all the attractions. The sky is the limit for how high the profits will go.
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.
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