A long time ago (October 2012), in a galaxy far far away (an office building in Hollywood, California), The Walt Disney Company (NYSE:DIS) acquired LucasFilm for over $4 billion, giving Star Wars fans a reason to get excited about another movie in the Star Wars saga. The first six Star Wars films together have grossed over $4.4 billion (not adjusted for inflation) in box office revenue since the initial release in 1977, and now Disney investors have been excited as well.
Since Disney first announced the name Star Wars VII: The Force Awakens last October, the industry has continued to buzz with excitement as each new snippet of casting and creative details are slowly leaked. Fans and investors alike have been patiently waiting for the film's December 2015 release.
Here's why Disney's Star Wars VII could be the best Star Wars movie yet and what Disney investors can expect in 2015.
A new and unexpected storyline
There's no denying that the story line in the first six Star Wars movies has been great. The way that four, five, and six back in the 70's and 80's were followed by the release of one, two, and three nearly 30 years later made it possible that multiple generations could be drawn into the story together. But with the finality of Darth Vader's death at the end of Episode 6, Disney has the chance to create a truly unique story line that doesn't follow the traditional ideas of Star Wars mastermind George Lucas.
Disney appears to have capitalized on this unique opportunity, setting the new movie 30 years in the future of when the Episode 6 ended, and then giving their creative team free will to deviate from Lucas' original plans.
In a recent announcement, Lucas admitted that his treatments for Star Wars VII have not been of much use.
"The ones that I sold to Disney, they came to the decision that they didn't really want to do those. They made up their own. So it's not the ones that I originally wrote." -- George Lucas in a comment to CinemaBlend.
A bigger FX toolbox
In addition to hiring a highly-successful creative team, Disney also made key acquisitions to ensure the Star Wars empire continues to impress.
"We're looking at what the early Star Wars films did; they used real locations with special effects. So [for Episode VII] we're going to find some very cool locations, [and] we're going to end up using every single tool in the toolbox." -- Kathleen Kennedy, President of LucasFilm
When the original Star Wars films were released, the stunning visual effects and cinematography were a large part of why the films were so successful. In the most recent Star Wars films, LucasFilm used an in-house audio/visual team called Skywalker Sound and Industrial Light and Magic, or ILM.
Disney acquired both of these FX makers along with its LucasFilm acquisition. In addition, Disney already owns some of the most advanced technology in the industry, which accounts for the amazing cinematic elements in recent films like Guardians of the Galaxy. Having Disney and ILM working together can only mean that two of the most advanced teams in the industry are sure to produce something special that the last Star Wars movies never could have achieved alone.
Is Star Wars VII a reason to invest in Disney?
The excitement of the Lucas acquisition may already seem built into Disney's current price of over $90 a share. In fact, the stock price has nearly doubled since the acquisition in 2012. So is the upcoming Star Wars movie a reason to invest in Disney?
2015 is going to be a big box office year. Comcast's (NASDAQ:CMCSA) Universal Pictures and LionsGate (NYSE:LGF-A)will both try to continue winning with sci-fi sagas that have been profitable for them in the past, with Universal's Jurassic Park 4: Jurassic World and LionsGate's Hunger Games Part II: Mockingjay both coming out this year.
Yet looking at the release schedule this year, it's undeniable that Disney is leading that pack not just in this genre, but overall. Disney will release 12 movies this year before Star Wars even comes out. If the company can continue operating as profitably as it has in the past, the company will already be scoring major wins this year long before Star Wars even adds to that. Therefore, whether or not Star Wars itself is going to add a major boost to Disney's share price, the company definitely looks like a great bet on continued success. And of course, producing the best Star Wars yet will certainly help.