"May the 4th be with you!" So goes the greeting for Star Wars Day, a play on the oft-repeated phrase "May the Force be with you" from the various Star Wars films.
This year the "holiday" fell on Saturday, which also happened to be Free Comic Book Day. (Publishers team with retailers to give away comics in an effort to lure kids into the hobby.)
Why should you care? Because Walt Disney (NYSE:DIS) does. The media conglomerate that also plays home to ABC, ESPN, and the world's best-known princesses has paid more than $8 billion to get into the sci-fi and comic book business.
The effort is paying off. Iron Man 3 has accumulated nearly $700 million in ticket sales in its first two weeks in global theaters, including $175.3 million in its U.S. debut. Disney's Lucasfilm team plans to have another Star Wars film ready in 2015.
J.J. Abrams, the man behind the soon-to-be released Star Trek Into Darkness for Viacom's (NASDAQ:VIA) Paramount Pictures, will direct the next Star Wars. An act of treachery? I know a few fans who think so, but that doesn't diminish Disney's brilliance in signing him.
The House of Mouse isn't your only hope, investors
Bob Iger wants to cultivate the Star Wars universe every bit as much as the Marvel universe, and for good reason: Before it became a part of Disney, Lucasfilm operated a $3 billion licensing empire.
Expect that total to grow as the years go on thanks to Disney's shuttling of the LucasArts gaming division. Any one of the big publishers could land the plum assignment of developing a game tied to the next feature film in the series.
In the meantime, clothiers, toymakers, game publishers and more will continue to pay to use Star Wars characters and imprints in creative and sometimes ridiculous ways:
And that's important. Investing in the Star Wars universe doesn't have to mean investing in Disney. Here are three other stocks with Jedi credentials:
Amazon.com (NASDAQ:AMZN). A search for "Star Wars" among the e-tailer's inventory brings up more than 114,000 different products for sale. To be fair, you could say something similar about Target and Wal-Mart, but buying Amazon also gets you access to its fast-growing Web Services and Instant Video businesses.
Like Amazon, Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL) sells a wide variety of Star Wars products, but in digital form. For example, more than 2,100 have rated season 1 of Star Wars: The Clone Wars television show, which costs $39.99 in HD at the iTunes Store.
Finally, there's Hasbro (NASDAQ:HAS), which sells a full line of Star Wars toys through the license inherited with its 1991 acquisition of Tonka and subsidiary Kenner, which made the original Star Wars action figures you can still find on eBay.
Did you celebrate Star Wars Day? What about Free Comic Book Day? Please leave a comment to let us know what you think about investing in Disney or any of the other stocks occupying distant parts of the Star Wars universe.