Disney to make new 'Star Wars' films, buy Lucas co
People walk past a fountain showing the Yoda character from the Star Wars movies outside of Lucasfilms headquarters in San Francisco, Tuesday, Oct. 30, 2012. The Walt Disney Co. announced Tuesday that it was buying Lucasfilm Ltd. for $4.05 billion. (AP Photo/Jeff Chiu)
LOS ANGELES (AP) — A decade since George Lucas said "Star Wars" was finished on the big screen, a new trilogy under new ownership is destined for theaters after The Walt Disney Co. announced Tuesday that it would buy Lucasfilm Ltd. from him for $4.05 billion.
The seventh movie, with a working title of "Episode 7," is set for release in 2015. Episodes 8 and 9 will follow. The trilogy will continue the story of Luke Skywalker, Han Solo and Princess Leia beyond "Return of the Jedi," the third film released and the sixth in the saga. After that, Disney plans a new "Star Wars" movie every two or three years. Lucas will serve as creative consultant in the new movies.
"I'm doing this so that the films will have a longer life," Lucas, the 68-year-old creator of the series and sole owner of Lucasfilm, said in an interview posted on YouTube. "I get to be a fan now ... I sort of look forward to it. It's a lot more fun actually, than actually having to go out into the mud and snow."
Disney CEO Bob Iger said Lucasfilm had already developed an extensive storyline on the next trilogy, and Episode 7 was now in early-stage development. He said he talked with Lucas about buying the company from him a year and a half ago, but they didn't decide on a deal until very recently as Lucas set in motion his retirement.
"The last 'Star Wars' movie release was 2005's 'Revenge of the Sith' — and we believe there's substantial pent-up demand," Iger said.
The blockbuster deal announced Tuesday will see Disney pay half the acquisition price in cash and half in newly issued stock. The company expects it to add to earnings in 2015 and said that as an example of its earnings power, Lucasfilm made $550 million in operating income the year "Sith" came out. Along with the cash, Lucas will end up owning about 40 million Disney shares, which is about 2.2 percent of the 1.83 billion shares that will be in circulation when the transaction closes. Disney did not say when that would happen.
FILE - In this Oct. 15, 2011 file photo, "Darth Vader" accepts the Ultimate Villain award from "Star Wars" creator George Lucas during the 2011 Scream Awards, in Los Angeles. A decade after George Lucas said "Star Wars" was finished on the big screen, a new trilogy is destined for theaters after The Walt Disney Co. announced Tuesday, Oct. 30, 2012, that it was buying Lucasfilm Ltd. for $4.05 billion. (AP Photo/Chris Pizzello, File)
The deal includes Lucasfilm's prized high-tech production companies, Industrial Light & Magic and Skywalker Sound, as well as rights to the "Indiana Jones" franchise. Lucasfilm will continue to be headquartered in San Francisco's Presidio park, and employees are to remain in their current locations. Disney has its headquarters in Burbank, Calif., near Los Angeles.