From the get-go, Wall Street analysts lauded The Walt Disney Co.’s decision in 2012 to buy Lucasfilm — home of George Lucas’ Star Wars franchise — despite a high price tag of $4.06 billion.
They weren’t wrong in their enthusiasm for Disney chairman-CEO Bob Iger’s empire-building.
Combined, Disney and Lucasfilm’s Star Wars: The Last Jedi, Rogue One: A Star Wars Story and Stars Wars: The Force Awakens have surpassed $4.06 billion in ticket sales at the worldwide box office. While an interesting benchmark, it doesn’t, of course, account for the hundreds of millions spent to produce and market the trio of films, or the fact that Disney splits box-office grosses with theater owners. Conversely, Disney has minted additional money from lucrative ancillary revenue streams, merchandising sales and theme park attractions.
Opening in North America on Dec. 15, The Last Jedi zoomed past the $900 million mark on Thursday, finishing the day with $934.2 million globally, including $464.6 million domestically and $469.6 internationally (it doesn’t land in China until Jan. 5). The sequel to The Force Awakens was directed by Rian Johnson, and has dominated the Christmas corridor. The Last Jedi will jump the $1 billion mark over New Year’s weekend on its way to becoming the top-grossing 2017 release, eclipsing the $1.264 billion earned by fellow Disney title Beauty and the Beast.
In December 2015, filmmaker J.J. Abrams’ The Force Awakens shattered numerous records on its way to grossing $2.068 billion globally, including an all-time best $936.7 million in North America, not accounting for inflation.
Filmmaker Gareth Edwards’ Rogue One, a standalone film released in December 2016, earned $1.056 billion worldwide. Last Jedi should ultimately land between the two films in terms of its lifetime gross.
The Lucasfilm purchase followed Disney’s 2009 acquisition of Marvel Entertainment and its 2006 purchase of Pixar, all engineered by Iger. The stable of companies, along with the studio’s own live-action division and Disney Animation, has propelled Disney to become the most successful film studio in Hollywood, led by chief Alan Horn.
Iger’s biggest bet is yet to come: The $52.4 billion acquisition of major parts of 21st Century Fox, including the 20th Century Fox film and television studios.