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.
Ryan Guenette has no position in any stocks mentioned. 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.