‘Star Wars’: The ‘Sky’s the Limit’ for Disney’s Spinoff Opportunities

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Disney focused on growing the sci-fi properties' licensing opportunities worldwide in time for the saga's seventh film in 2015

Not that Disney had any reason to be concerned over its $4 billion purchase of Lucasfilm, but “of all our worries, ‘Star Wars’ is not one of them,” said Walt Disney Co. chief financial officer Jay Rasulo at an investor conference on Thursday.

During a presentation of the Mouse House’s assets at the Bank of America Merrill Lynch Media, Communications & Entertainment Conference, in Beverly Hills, Rasulo said “the market is extremely hot for everything ‘Star Wars.'”

He called the franchise an “evergreen property” that continues to mint money through licensing deals, and had the potential to become even more valuable with the right deals.

When asked if Disney was worried that today’s kids may not be familiar with the films, Rasulo touted the strong sales of toys — the brand continues to prove one of the top franchises in terms of licensing revenue each year.

“This is not a new franchise for kids,” Rasulo said.

SEE ALSO: ‘Disney Infinity’ Game an Early Hit for Disney Interactive

But there’s still room for growth. Disney purchased Lucasfilm late last year as a way to cash in on the ongoing appeal of the 35-year-old “Star Wars” franchise and grow the brand in new ways around the world.

“The sky’s the limit,” Rasulo said of the potential for the sci-fi franchise, including expanding its presence in the company’s theme parks. “There’s incredible flexibility. It’s an unbelievable palette to create from.”

Rasulo said Disney’s in-house licensing and consumer products group would devote the next year on brokering deals around the world to expand the reach of the “Star Wars” brand.

Given its much smaller size, Lucasfilm had focused primarily on U.S.-based licensing programs and then on toys and a few other categories. But Disney plans to expand broaden it into housewares and other merchandise categories the way it’s increased the vast variety of products that feature Marvel’s superheroes.

“We will lay the groundwork for that … and when the film comes out in 2015, we’ll be ready to blow it out,” Rasulo said.

The overall strategy is “to put out a great film” first, Rasulo said.

As Disney has often stated before, Pixar, Marvel and Lucasfilm pics, as well as Disney branded animated and live action films, will make up a majority of the studio’s slate.

Rasulo also noted that one “Star Wars” trilogy film or “origin story film” would also appear on the release schedule each year, starting with the seventh installment in the “Star Wars” saga that J.J. Abrams will direct and Disney releases in 2015.

The exec cautioned that after the disappointing box office performance of “The Lone Ranger” this summer, “there needs to be a cap on (budgets of) tentpole franchise movies.” “Going forward, we will see a cap on spending on those movies,” he said.

Rasulo said Disney has no plans as of yet to make other high-profile acquisitions the way it picked up Lucasfilm.

“We are not in a position today where we feel there’s a necessity to buy something, Rasulo said. “We don’t feel like there are holes that there are out there we’re trying to fill.”

But the executive still kept Disney’s doors open to the possibility for a purchase, should the right deal come along.

“We demonstrated we remain extremely opportunistic in things that might show up that demonstrate to us that it’s a way to accelerate ourselves in a marketplace where we feel consumers live or consumers will live in the future,” citing acquisitions of Playdom and India’s UTV in the past.

Instead, Rasulo said Disney intends to use its cash to buy back the company’s stock, spending around $6 billion, and as much as $8 billion, during its fiscal 2014 year. That’s up from $4 billion over the last couple of years.

Disney’s stock was lifted on the news, up $1.55 to close at $65.49, a gain of 2.4%

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  1. Joguila says:

    Personally, I’d like to see movies based upon tertiary characters. I.E. I’d rather see a movie based upon IG-88 than Boba Fett.
    And partially joking: a movie with the Sarlacc Pit as the main focus.

  2. Dirk Digler says:

    Believe me. Disney can easily ruin this franchise. In fact, they appear to be headed in exactly the right direction to do just that.

    Thus far, Disney is proposing one major tent pole Star Wars every two years, in attention to spin-off movies AND television series and one-off properties.

    These dorks don’t care about integrity, but, rather, the bottom line. I honestly wouldn’t be surprised if the franchise was on life support by 2020…

  3. Lightsabers!!.. there will be Lightsabers everywhere!!!!…

  4. Matt Evans says:

    Part of me wants this Disney venture to fail. They’re crapping all over my childhood. Thanks a lot George Lucas.

    • The_Monarch says:

      George already crapped on it. All over it.
      As a gigantic SW nerd, I have a small measure of hope that Disney, for all its crass commercialism, will bring us something with more magic and wonder (and quality) than George was able to in the generally-disappointing prequel films.

  5. David says:

    Go to any pre school. Every little boy, 3 years old, 5 years old etc know all about Star Wars and all the characters. Know about the Clones Wars series.

    This series is pre school to generation after generation. These kids are ready for a new film and are already into Star Wars.

    Part has to do with the Dads showing them the stuff but mainly cause there is nothing else out there that captivates little boys little boys like space battles, light sabres etc.

    Disney are sitting on the motherloads of motherloads.

  6. Albert says:

    this from someone who lives in the land that gave the world such amazing shows (yes that’s sarcasm) as “Here comes Honey Boo Boo”, “Toddlers and Tiaras” (which is just a soft porn show for all the pedophlies out there) and “Sister Wives”, as well as many others.

    • The_Monarch says:

      Honestly “Honey Boo-Boo” doesn’t belong in the same tirade as those other two. Sure it may be a freakshow in some ways but here is a family that loves one another and are happy in their own skins (such as they may be). I’d rather see familial love (even the wacky kind) modeled on TV than the divisive, ugly conflicts that seem to be so prevalent across the medium.

  7. Canadian Conspiracy Files Case #20-201-15 Love it or Shove It! says:

    Well well well my friends… Those Canadian’s are hiding things from us AGAIN!
    Those HGTV Derps have been Duped again… But no from Property Brother Jonathan, who pretends to be Drew. And gets PAID TWICE! While the crew of his tv shows are NEEDY eating Bear-skins, and Nacho cheese and noodle casserole! Nope not John this time.

    The Canadian’s who have fooled HGTV are Love it Or List It Too! Jillian and Dude-man… Have hid the truth from Americans! It’s really Love It Or List It Vancouver! You can’t fool Smmert people! SMART PEOPLE! HA HA HA! We know the truth! You evil CANADIANS CAN EAT Canadian Bacon! While I have 100% Pure Kobe Beef Burgers! And watch MacGuyver! The Canadian Implant who…

    You can tell those shills way up North to LOVE IT OR SHOVE IT! Cuz we r on 2 U! I hope there won’t be any weird Rouge Canadian’s in Star Wars Sequals.. blah blah blah.. ugg..

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