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Lucasfilm's Latest Executive Hiring Hints at Plans for "Star Wars"

By Nicholas Rossolillo – Jun 22, 2019 at 6:16AM

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The space fantasy is entering uncharted territory, but Disney has experience with such things.

When Disney (DIS 0.98%) announced it was purchasing Lucasfilm and the Star Wars franchise back in 2012 for $4 billion, the world was stunned, excited for the continuation of the saga, and generally excited about the prospect of the deal. What could go wrong? This was Star Wars, one of the greatest titles in show-business history.

In the more than seven years since, Disney has managed some successes. 2015's Star Wars: The Force Awakens became one of the highest-grossing films at the box office of all time ($2.07 billion worldwide in gross ticket sales). And the Skywalker family will take their final bow in December with Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker, which will likely be another big haul for Disney. But there have been missteps along the way, too. The spinoff Han Solo origin flick bombed at theaters, and Star Wars: The Last Jedi -- certainly not a box-office failure with $1.33 billion in global ticket sales -- underperformed expectations and was divisive among fans.

Lucasfilm is on its way to becoming a worthy investment for Lord Mickey, but it certainly isn't the runaway success that Marvel has been -- the other $4 billion mega-franchise deal Disney made back in 2009. Not to worry, though. Star Wars may be taking a cue from its sister subsidiary and readying for life after the original trilogy story line.

A group of people sitting in a movie theater with drinks and popcorn.

Star Wars is all set to become more than just an occasional big-screen event. Image source: Getty Images.

A "new" executive hire

Lucasfilm recently announced it named Michelle Rejwan as senior vice president of live action development and production. (Phew, that's a mouthful.) Basically, Rejwan will be in charge of new Star Wars movies and shows and will co-produce them along with Lucasfilm's longtime president, Kathleen Kennedy. The official press release added some background:

Rejwan comes poised for the role as a member of the Lucasfilm brain trust since 2015. She brings with her a decade of production experience from Bad Robot Productions, where she was part of filmmaker J.J. Abrams' producing team, on films such as Super 8, Star Trek Into Darkness and Star Wars: The Force Awakens. Rejwan is currently producing the final episode of the Skywalker saga, Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker, with Kennedy and Abrams. 

What does it mean?

As noted above, Star Wars as we know it is coming to an end this year. The ninth and final chapter in the original story arc will take a bow in December, but there's the upcoming live-action series The Mandalorian, which will debut on the Disney+ streaming service. Another TV series, built around the characters from the other spin-off, Rogue One: A Star Wars Story, is also reportedly in the works. Then there are the two new trilogies being developed, about which there are no details other than who's writing them and a few tentative release dates years from now. Surely, all of these moves are more of an appeal to die-hard fans.

Or are they? Details are scant at best on the second TV show, but the first is headed up by Jon Favreau -- a Marvel alum and the director of Iron Man, the movie that kicked off the whole Marvel Cinematic Universe project back in 2008. Adding Rejwan into the mix makes Star Wars look even more like the Marvel template. Perhaps Rejwan will become Lucasfilm's version of Kevin Feige, the producer and president at Marvel Studios largely responsible for patching the superhero franchise together into the tens-of-billions-of-dollars success it has been.

Maybe that's the plan for Rejwan, maybe not. Either way, Disney and Lucasfilm's task will be turning little-known characters and plotlines -- or entirely new ones -- reserved for cult fans of comics, books, and games into mainstream entertainment. What better way to test the popularity of the franchise and slowly rebuild a fan base than via Disney+? It's an episodic story- and character-building strategy that has consistently worked wonders for Marvel over the last decade. Disney has had some success thus far with Lucasfilm, but not enough to justify the $4 billion price tag...yet. I have no doubt the company will test new ideas in the next few years and figure out how to delight fans -- and make it rain for investors.

Nicholas Rossolillo and his clients own shares of Walt Disney. The Motley Fool owns shares of and recommends Walt Disney. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.

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