‘Star Wars’ brand stays hot

Toon, live-action series to hit tube by 30th anni

CANNES — May the force be with you for many more billions of dollars in licensing revenues to come.

“Star Wars: Episode III — Return of the Sith” closed the movie franchise earlier this year, but at Mipcom on Tuesday, Lucas Licensing prexy Howard Roffman expanded on plans to keep consumers shelling out for the foreseeable future.

Next month, the DVD and vidgame of “Episode III” hits shops, backed by a $60 million global marketing campaign.

In 2007, the 30th anniversary of the original “Star Wars” movie, a new CG-animated series will hit TV screens, while a year later “Star Wars” will morph into a “hard-hitting live-action TV series,” Roffman said. Both TV projects were announced earlier this year by George Lucas.

“The films may have ended, but the franchise hasn’t,” Roffman said. “It has been around 30 years, and this isn’t even the midpoint.”

In a keynote speech on licensing titled “Star Wars: Past Present and Future,” Roffman recalled joining Lucas’ company in a time when “Star Wars” was so has-been, you couldn’t give away merchandising.

But when he nervously passed on the message that one client had told him the franchise was dead, Lucas replied, “It isn’t dead. It’s just hibernating.”

The “Star Wars” pics went on to earn $4.2 billion at the global box office and $11 billion in video rental and sales.

“I’m bullish on the future, as I know the awesome staying power of the brand,” Roffman said.

In another glimpse into the megabucks end of the licensing biz, Dan Romanelli, prexy of Warner Bros. Worldwide Consumer Products and recipient of this year’s Mipcom’s lifetime achievement award, reminisced about 1989, when 30 million “Batman” T-shirts were sold, causing a global shortage of black material.

Today, “The fuse burns quicker than ever for properties at retail,” Romanelli pointed out, citing the impact of click-and-shop technology and retail consolidation, which are making it harder to get and keep product on shelves.

“Today, success is not a decade-long run — it’s usually two or three years,” Romanelli said.

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