Indiana Jones Crystal Skull Wide

Is Indiana Jones about to be the next great Disney franchise? Source: Disney/Lucasfilm.

Walt Disney (NYSE:DIS) has acquired from Viacom's (NASDAQ:VIA) Paramount Pictures all marketing and distribution rights to future films featuring the adventurous archeology professor Indiana Jones. The terms of the deal weren't disclosed at the time of writing.

Harrison Ford has played whip-wielding, fedora-wearing 'Indy' in four highly lucrative Lucasfilm productions:

Rotten Tomatoes Rating
(Critics / Viewers)
Worldwide Box Office
Production Budget

Raiders of the Lost Ark

95% / 96%

$389.9 million $18 million

Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom

85% / 82%

$333.1 million $28 million

Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade

88% / 94%

$474.1 million $48 million

Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull

78% / 54%

$786.6 million $185 million

Sources: Rotten Tomatoes, Box Office Mojo.

Disney has owned limited rights to the character since its $4 billion acquisition of Lucasfilm last October. Inking a distinct arrangement with Paramount clears the way for new films. I'm expecting Disney to start commissioning scripts within weeks.

Would executives also ask Ford to reprise his role? I'd doubt it, but the 71-year-old actor is still interested in the character. He's said as much in recent interviews on France's TF1 TV and the BBC's The Graham Norton Show. More likely, I think, is that Disney will seek a reboot now that it has control of the franchise.

Either way, the good news for investors is that Disney is consolidating assets. In July, Disney acquired all of Paramount's remaining distribution rights to four Marvel films: Iron Man, Iron Man 2, Thor, and Captain America: The First Avenger. As a result the studio now gets 100% of the profit from future distribution or syndication of these early Marvel hits as it continues to build out the Avengers franchise. If there's a difference here it's that Disney doesn't get to rewind the clock. The House of Mouse will continue to share distribution gains from earlier films.

That's still a win. Box office history suggests a new 'Indy' adventure would draw a large audience. Now Disney, with rights in hand, can start making the next one.

Now it's your turn to weigh in. Do you want to see Harrison Ford in another Indiana Jones movie? Do you believe the franchise can rival Marvel and Star Wars as an earnings driver for Disney? Leave a comment below to let us know what you think.

Fool contributor Tim Beyers is a member of the Motley Fool Rule Breakers stock-picking team and the Motley Fool Supernova Odyssey I mission. He owned shares of Walt Disney at the time of publication. Check out Tim's web home and portfolio holdings or connect with him on Google+Tumblr, or Twitter, where he goes by @milehighfool. You can also get his insights delivered directly to your RSS reader.

The Motley Fool recommends Walt Disney. The Motley Fool owns shares of Walt Disney. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.