It took George Lucas nearly thirty years to release six Star Wars films -- Disney could accomplish that feat in less than a decade.
Beginning this December with The Force Awakens, theater-goers are about to be inundated with a wave of Star Wars films -- not just mainline entries, but also side stories and spin-offs. Assuming they're as popular as the Star Wars movies that captivated audiences in years past, they should propel the shares of a wide variety of businesses beyond Disney (NYSE:DIS) itself.
Below are three less obvious stocks that could get a boost from Star Wars' return.
AMC should benefit from strong attendance
With 348 locations and nearly 5,000 screens, AMC Holdings (NYSE:AMC) is one of the top movie theater chains in the United States. Its business is entirely dependent on the American public's interest in films -- and Star Wars should provide a nice jolt.
AMC has suffered from declining attendance figures in recent quarters -- an industrywide trend. To some extent, this may be to due to shifts in the broader competitive landscape: more appealing entertainment options and Internet streaming services have taken some of the allure out of theater attendance. But in its most recent earnings call, AMC blamed a weak film slate for its ticket sales, noting that it was the mercy of Hollywood to provide it with interesting films.
Star Wars should provide those films, drawing crowds of patrons to AMC's theaters in the years ahead. There are other publicly traded movie theater chains, but AMC may be the best bet, as its management has been able to persevere and even outperform the industry. Last quarter, AMC's admissions revenues per screen rose 13.8% -- much better than the 4.3% industrywide contraction.
Special effects best seen on an IMAX screen
Many of those theater-goers could choose to see Star Wars on an IMAX (NYSE:IMAX) screen. If so, it should benefit that namesake company.
The high-end theater provider has been a frequent target of short-sellers in recent months: nearly one-fifth of its shares have been bet against. IMAX's business depends on the demand for its IMAX-branded screens, and with theater attendance in decline, the market for IMAX's systems could come under pressure.
IMAX has proven its critics wrong, rallying more than 20% over the last 12 months, but shares could rally further still as a wave of Star Wars films juices the demand for its systems. Star Wars films, perhaps more so than any other, depend on cutting-edge visuals and special effects, and watching them on an IMAX screen may offer a much better experience.
Electronic Arts' Star Wars-themed games should get more attention
Video game giant Electronic Arts (NASDAQ:EA) won't make any money from theater attendance -- at least not directly -- but consumers swept up in Star Wars mania could find themselves turning to Electronic Arts' upcoming slate of Star Wars-themed video games.
In 2013, Disney signed an exclusive pact with Electronic Arts to develop Star Wars games aimed at "core audiences" -- gamers that play on the Xbox, PlayStation, and PC. The first of these games, Star Wars: Battlefront, will debut later this year in conjunction with the release of The Force Awakens, and more should be forthcoming.
If the games are poorly made, they may not sell well, but the use of the Star Wars' intellectual property should at least attract the attention of gamers, many of whom are likely to be Star Wars fans.