The breathless anticipation was almost like the casting of Scarlett O’Hara. (Almost.) When Lost co-creator and Star Trek director J.J. Abrams was named as the director of the new Star Wars movie under the Disney banner, it didn’t take a Jedi to sense a great disturbance in the Force. Members of the Internet commentariat have been typing overtime to discuss the ramifications of the pick. Old rivalries – Star Wars vs. Star Trek – have been revitalized, especially because Abrams directs for both teams.
As my colleague Amy Schein notes in her coverage of the $4 billion Lucasfilm acquisition by Disney, Star Wars fans are not shy about sharing their opinions.
So what hath Disney wrought? As many observers have noticed, the acquisition gives the company some boy action figures to go along with its iconic princesses (along with one very iconic princess herself). The acquisition dovetails nicely with its Marvel buy of 2009, which paid off very well with the success of The Avengers. The product licensing arrangements of Lucasfilm rival Disney’s like no other franchise. This doesn’t even get at the more than 30 years of Star Wars frenzy, with many fans of the original movies happily introducing their children to the beloved films.
According to box office data site The Numbers, Disney released 10 movies in 2012, taking in about $1.4 billion, with its brightest stars The Avengers and Brave, and its dimmest, its disappointing foray into grand-scale space opera, John Carter. John Carter took an unfair shellacking from the press, losing an estimated $200 million on receipts of about $73 million. Although fans stayed away in droves, it wasn’t as bad as it was made out to be, only badly marketed. With the Star Wars franchise, that is so not a problem. Star Wars exists in the very air about us and has become part of the national identity. Witness the petition calling for the US to build a Death Star of its very own, and the response by the White House.
That is also one of the intangible benefits of owning the Star Wars franchise. It can be argued that after Star Trek, Star Wars has had the greatest impact on the country’s research into space exploration. Yes, there was the misbegotten missile defense program, but I’m talking about the shuttle program, the International Space Station, and the Mars missions. The ISS is the first foothold in our climb to other worlds. Another deep space exploration company has thrown its hat into the asteroid belt too, with plans to identify and sample nearby asteroids (nearby being a very relative term) as early as 2020.
If Disney plays its cards right, it can capitalize quite nicely on the resurgence in interest in real-world space exploration.
Episode VII comes out in 2015, and it will be a blockbuster.
Image courtesy of NASA, the ESA, and the Hubble Heritage Team