Disney's Star Wars Is Looking to Dethrone Avatar

It's finally official: there will be another Star Wars movie. After months of rumors and speculation, Disney's (NYSE: DIS  ) President and CEO Robert Iger announced during the company's fourth quarter conference call that Star Wars Episode VII will be released on December 18, 2015.

Disney acquired Lucasfilm, the maker of Star Wars, for $4.05 billion in October of last year. On the press release announcing the acquisition, Disney predicted that the next Star Wars movie would likely come out sometime in 2015. Now the date is official and the countdown begins.

Star Wars VII aims for the throne
During Disney's conference call Iger ended his discussion on the next Star Wars movie by saying, "We've chosen a date, we believe will allow the creative team to make a great film. It's also the date Avatar opened in 2009."

That's right, the next Star Wars movie will be released on the weekend before Christmas on the same day Avatar was released. Avatar, which was distributed by Twenty-First Century Fox (NASDAQ: FOXA  ) , still holds the crown for the highest grossing film ever, four years after its release. 

Avatar was able to rake in $2.78 billion, trumping Titanic's $2.18 billion, which had previously held the title since 1997. Yet Avatar's time at No. 1 may be limited because Disney is making a run for the title with Star Wars. Why else would Iger mention the fact that the release dates of the two movies will be the same? I'm pretty sure he just wasn't looking to amuse the world with a fun fact--Disney and Lucasfilm have their sights set on the throne. 

Luckily for Disney, the suspense about another Star Wars movie could not be greater. Star Wars Episode VI: Return of the Jedi was the last time a "true" Star Wars feature film was released. That was in 1983, three decades ago.

You could even argue that the Star Wars brand is stronger now than ever before. Small-scale shows like Star Wars: The Clone Wars and the use of the Star Wars brand in other products such as Legos have allowed the Star Wars brand to endure the decades and grow stronger in the process.

Avatar will fight back
Avatar and Twenty-First Century Fox are ready to fight back, however, with three sequels to Avatar expected to hit theaters between 2016 and 2018. James Cameron, the legendary director behind the Avatar films, revealed to the New York Times during an interview that Avatar 2 and 3 will be used to complete the "thematic arc" of the story, while 4 is going to be a journey back to the early expeditions of Pandora.

The Foolish takeaway
While an official date does not change the fact that the movie's release is still a good two years away, it does begin the countdown to the release of the movie that could finally dethrone Avatar as the highest grossing movie in the world. There are some obstacles, including the fact that the legendary George Lucas will not be the director, yet the fact that the Star Wars brand is still relevant after three decades speaks to its strength. Avatar will defend its crown with three more films, yet Disney is sure to fire back with further episodes in the Star Wars saga. 

All I can say is grab your popcorn, it's going to be an entertaining couple of years.

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Read/Post Comments (12) | Recommend This Article (3)

Comments from our Foolish Readers

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  • Report this Comment On November 17, 2013, at 12:46 PM, ferrarimobile wrote:

    I'm sorry, but 1983 was not the last time a Star Wars movie was released. And if the upcoming, not even shot or even casted "Star Wars" already qualifies as "real" what are the criteria? While I agree that the newest trilogy of Star Warts was not all that it could be, (obviously everyone over 4 rightfully hated the first for Jar Jar Binks alone) I also at least acknowledge it as "real". It was the story, after all, of the Skywalker family, Jedi, and the rise of the Empire, made by Lucas films, I can go on and on.

  • Report this Comment On November 17, 2013, at 1:58 PM, IgnorantFool77 wrote:

    I love the little barb about this being the first true Star Wars film since ROTJ. But I'd change that slightly. Empire Strikes Back was the last true Star Wars. Once George decided that marketing toys was more important than the films themselves, (the teddy bears from ROTJ) they went down hill. The prequels are complete garbage, and JJ Abrams knows this. The decisions he's already making show his disdain for the prequel trilogy. Shooting on film rather than digital is only going to be the first of many changes from Abram in an effort to make them movies again rather than green screen cartoons.

  • Report this Comment On November 17, 2013, at 3:00 PM, allykat7825 wrote:

    Why grown men on an investment site would argue about which Star Wars films were "real" or not escapes me, but the fact, as everyone who is anyone, knows, is that they were all "real" but only three were really good.

  • Report this Comment On November 17, 2013, at 3:44 PM, ICUevrywhere wrote:

    Star Wars without George Lucas?? Won't never happen, expect Avatar to be the biggest box office seller..

  • Report this Comment On November 17, 2013, at 5:13 PM, Speter11 wrote:

    Since The Motley Fool can read Iger's mind, I guess I can too! So here goes. December is a prime family movie release month. December 18, 2015 is the weekend most students get out for Christmas Break and is also the weekend prior to Christmas Day, I. E. lots of folks out and about. Iger wants Avatar 2&3 to be as successful as new Star Wars movies because it will bring even more visitors to Disney World's Animal Kingdom in 2017 when its Avatar area will open. James Cameron is currently working closely with Joe Rohde to accomplish this. ::Removes tongue from cheek:: :-)

  • Report this Comment On November 17, 2013, at 7:29 PM, Dull wrote:

    Finally someone noticed! Titanic & Avatar were so successful is NewsCorp told the other studios not to compete for 6 months. They had all winter to themselves. It also helped credits were payed off.

  • Report this Comment On November 17, 2013, at 11:36 PM, InvisibleZombie wrote:

    Who cares if it beats "Avatar"s earnings or just makes half... just let it be GOOD!

    And yeah, what WAS the point of the "true" Star Wars film comment? Sure I like the OT better than the PT, but it's still Star Wars, of a different kind. In an alternate universe. Sort of Star Wars done in a different way... Okay, maybe I get it now!

  • Report this Comment On November 18, 2013, at 1:39 AM, demonhorde665 wrote:

    I'm honestly tired of people trying to "erase" the prequels, who make it out like the first there films were golden and the prequel films were poop. honest truth both sets of films had their share of poop and their share of golden moments. they were all written by gorge lucas .. whom while I think is a good "overall" picture guy. I think he sucks at dialogue writing and suffers from wide audience appeal syndrome.

    That being said the prequels and original 3 were equally as lame in dialogue and goofy characters that all 6 movie could have done with out. problem is, is that people who haven't actually considered the merits of all 6 films fully are still looking back on the original 3 films with nostalgia goggles.

    and if you don't think that disney is about to "rape" the franchise for quick cash. then you obviously aren't thinking very clearly. Through out their history Disney has butt raped just about every morally worth while fairy tale that man has written with no thought to the actual "moral" point of the story in their rewrite. You are an idiot if you think Disney is about to ignore their own past and actually do star wars justice.

  • Report this Comment On November 18, 2013, at 12:34 PM, DPRoberts wrote:

    Speter11 is correct - Iger is looking to build on Avatar's success, not tear it down or compete with it. Why else would Disney buy the theme park rights to Avatar, and then spend hundreds of millions of dollars building theme park attractions for it? Disney would love for both Avatar and Star Wars (and Marvel as well) to dominate theaters for the next decade.

  • Report this Comment On November 18, 2013, at 1:07 PM, CluckChicken wrote:

    "There are some obstacles, including the fact that the legendary George Lucas will not be the director"

    - This without a doubt falls into the adding by subtracting. Lucas has directed 6 feature length films and his 2 best appear to have been so because of the actors not the director. The more he keeps away from the actual details of the story the better.

    "Titanic & Avatar were so successful is NewsCorp told the other studios not to compete for 6 months."

    - If studios could do this why wouldn't they do this all the time? Why didn't WB tell New Line not to release the Fellowship just a month after Potter 1 was released? Why didn't Disney tell WB not to release Potter 1 just two weeks after Shrek?

    The lack of good films being released has nothing to do with any other film. Also to generate over 2 billion in box office you need to have a lot of repeat viewers so you must have done something right because no film will be out on so many screens for so long with a lack of viewers.

    My real question though is what makes SW7 so much different then any other big budget film that it is the first film that wants to beat Avatar? I am pretty sure every producer says I want to at least break even but I would REALLY like to top Avatar.

  • Report this Comment On November 18, 2013, at 5:23 PM, ohyeeaaah wrote:

    Beat Avatar? Wasn't Disney trying to do that with "The Lone Ranger?"

  • Report this Comment On November 18, 2013, at 6:50 PM, KeninPA wrote:

    Seriously who cares?

    I care only if I can make money from it and I can do this how exactly?

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