Disney Plans Midnight ‘Star Wars’ Event to Unveil ‘Last Jedi’ Merchandise

Walt Disney Co and major retailers will release the galaxy’s newest “Star Wars” toys at a September 1st midnight event ahead of the holiday debut of the next film in the saga, “The Last Jedi,” company executives told Reuters.

The marketing push called “Force Friday II” is a sequel to an event Disney used to build buzz for merchandise tied to the 2015 movie “The Force Awakens.”

Star Wars products were a big contributor to the financial success of the series reboot. BB-8 droids, lightsabers and other playthings made “Star Wars” the U.S. toy industry’s top-selling property for 2015 and 2016, with $1.5 billion in sales over the two years, research firm NPD said.

Hasbro Inc cited “Star Wars” sales when it reported its biggest quarterly revenue rise in nearly five years for the December 2015 quarter. Mattel Inc also posted a surprise rise in sales for the same period with help from “Star Wars”-based Hot Wheels toys. And at Disney, licensing income from “Force Awakens” merchandise drove record quarterly operating income in the consumer products unit.

Force Friday II will begin just after midnight on September 1st. Lego, Hasbro and others will release the first toys, apparel, books and other products tied to “The Last Jedi,” both online and in stores at retailers including Wal-Mart Stores Inc, Target, Toys R Us, Kohl’s, Amazon.com Inc and Disney Stores.

Disney will incorporate new technology to its “Last Jedi” products like it did with the popular BB-8 droid, said James Pitaro, chairman of Disney Consumer Products and Interactive Media. New products will feature returning characters such as Rey and Finn, plus new ones, and will span a broad range of categories for male and female fans, he said.

“One of our top priorities is to expand the audience,” Pitaro said.

“The Last Jedi,” the eighth installment in the “Star Wars” movie saga that began in 1977, debuts in theaters Dec. 15. Toys typically hit shelves closer to a movie’s release, around four to six weeks in advance.

At the 2015 Force Friday, fans dressed as Stormtroopers and Jedi waited in line for hours ahead of the midnight store openings.

“There was a certain mania that took over,” said Marty Brochstein, a senior vice president at the International Licensing Industry Merchandisers’ Association. The excitement around “Star Wars” in 2015 was unique because it had been so long since the last film, Brochstein said.

“It would be unfair to expect the same kind of volume generated this time around by consumer products,” he said, adding it was too early to assess demand.

Pitaro said Disney continues to see “very, very healthy sales” of “Star Wars” merchandise. “We have a lot of confidence we will continue in that direction,” he said.

Disney bought “Star Wars” producer Lucasfilm in 2012 for $4 billion and reintroduced the franchise with “Force Awakens.” That movie became the third-highest grossing ever, selling $2 billion worth of tickets worldwide. Disney also released “Star Wars” spinoff “Rogue One” in 2016.

The Official Title For STAR WARS: EPISODE VIII Revealed

The title for Episode VIII of the Skywalker Saga has been announced on StarWars.com.

The statement on the website says –

We have the greatest fans in this or any other galaxy. In appreciation of the fans, we wanted them to be the first to know the title of the next chapter in the Skywalker saga: STAR WARS: THE LAST JEDI.

THE LAST JEDI is written and directed by Rian Johnson and produced by Kathleen Kennedy and Ram Bergman and executive produced by J.J. Abrams, Jason McGatlin, and Tom Karnowski.

star-wars-the-last-jedi

STAR WARS: THE LAST JEDI is scheduled for release December 15, 2017. 

‘Rogue One: A Star Wars Story’ Hits $1 Billion in Worldwide Box Office

Disney-Lucasfilm’s “Rogue One: A Star Wars Story” has surpassed the $1 billion milestone at the worldwide box office, becoming the 28th title and 13th Disney film to do so.

“Rogue One” needed 39 days to cross the mark with $512 million domestically and $499 million internationally. It’s the third “Star Wars” movie to gross more than $1 billion, joining “Star Wars: The Force Awakens” ($2.07 billion) and “Star Wars: Episode I: The Phantom Menace” ($1.03 billion).

“Rogue One” is also Disney’s fourth 2016 release to cross the $1 billion mark, joining “Captain America: Civil War,” “Finding Dory,” and “Zootopia.” It’s the top domestic grosser released in 2016 and ranks seventh on the all-time list.

The tentpole took in $7 million at 2,603 North American sites in its sixth frame and another $9 million internationally over weekend. The U.K. is the top market at $79.4 million, followed by China with $61.3 million, Germany with $44.8 million, Japan with $36.8 million, France with $35.8 million, and Australia with $35.6 million.

“Rogue One” is directed by Gareth Edwards and stars Felicity Jones, Diego Luna, Donnie Yen, Forest Whitaker, and Jiang Wen. The eighth “Star Wars” movie is set immediately before the events of the original “Star Wars” with rebels attempting to steal plans for the Death Star weapon.

Disney also announced that its animated “Moana” has crossed the $500 million mark worldwide, with an estimated $237 million domestically and $272 million  internationally.

From Variety

 

Disney Issues Statement about Carrie Fisher Appearing in Future “Star Wars” Movies

When Carrie Fisher passed away on December 27th, 2016 there was a major disturbance in the Force. Fisher wasn’t just Princess General Leia in Star Wars, but a force herself to be reckoned with in Hollywood. Her memory will certainly live on, especially when it comes to Star Wars — and in an unprecedented move, Star Wars has released a statement about the future of Carrie Fisher and the film franchise.

Shortly after her death, it was revealed that Carrie had completed all her scenes for Star Wars: Episode VIII. But what about Episode IX? That movie is still years away from hitting the big screen, and Disney and Lucasfilm met this week to figure out how to finish off the trilogy without Carrie. Knowing that we’ve all seen Rogue One by now (and spoilers ahead if you haven’t seen it) there were rumors that Disney and Lucasfilm might try to digitally recreate Carrie, like the did at the very end of Rogue One.

According to a statement released:

We don’t normally respond to fan or press speculation, but there is a rumor circulating that we would like to address,” the statement up on StarWars.com reads. “We want to assure our fans that Lucasfilm has no plans to digitally recreate Carrie Fisher’s performance as Princess or General Leia Organa. Carrie Fisher was, is, and always will be a part of the Lucasfilm family. She was our princess, our general, and more importantly, our friend. We are still hurting from her loss. We cherish her memory and legacy as Princess Leia, and will always strive to honor everything she gave to Star Wars.

Disney Could Receive $50 Million Insurance Payment Due to Carrie Fisher’s Death

In the aftermath of CarrieFisher’s untimely death due to a heart attack, Disney looks set to receive $50 million in compensation as a result.

Insurers at Lloyd’s of London look set to pay out a significant contingency claim following the tragic death of Star Wars actress Carrie Fisher, according to Insurance Insider.

Sources have said that Disney had taken out $50 million of so-called contract protection cover as insurance for the event that Fisher was unable to fulfil her obligations to act in the new Star Wars films, with the policy now likely to trigger.

The policy was underwritten by specialist New Jersey-based managing general agent Exceptional Risk Advisors, but if the policy triggers the loss will be entirely borne by capacity providers in Lloyd’s, with Enstar subsidiary Atrium the lead on the facility.

Sources said that the claim would be widely spread within the Lloyd’s contingency market, with more than 20 carriers on the binder.

However, the loss would cause substantial damage to the 2016 underwriting result for the segment, with some Lloyd’s insurers writing contingency books with $10 million or less of annual premiums.

Fisher died on December 27th, four days after she suffered a heart attack on a flight between London and Los Angeles.

The actress rose to prominence in the late 1970s, playing Princess Leia in the first Star Wars trilogy.

She reprised the role last year in Star Wars: The Force Awakens, a runaway success which took $2.07 billion at the box office.

Filming for Star Wars Episode VIII, which will be released next year, was completed ahead of Fisher’s death.

Princess Leia was again slated to have a major role in Episode IX and it is not clear how Disney, which owns the Star Wars franchise, will choose to respond.

According to its website, Exceptional Risk Advisors is a specialist in high-limit specialty life, accident, and disability products, with underwriting authorities from Lloyd’s insurers that exceed $50 million per individual risk.

Fisher’s spokesperson could not be reached. Atrium declined to comment. Exceptional Risk Advisors and Disney did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

‘Rogue One’ Officially Makes Disney Hollywood’s First $7 Billion Studio

An impressive opening weekend for Rogue One: A Star Wars Story was more than enough to help Walt Disney capture a new Hollywood record for yearly global box office gross.

The company said on Monday that Walt Disney Studios will set an industry record today by becoming the first Hollywood studio to top $7 billion in global movie ticket sales in a single calendar year. For Disney, which had already bested its own single-year record for box office revenue by November, Rogue One‘s $290.5 million global opening easily pushed the studio’s overall 2016 haul to record heights. The previous yearly box office record belonged to Comcast’s Universal Studios, which pulled in $6.9 billion worldwide just last year.

Disney ruled the movie market in 2016 with a series of blockbusters throughout the year that put the studio within close grasp of a new record heading into a weekend in which the latest Star Wars product from its Lucasfilm division was expected to dominate the global box office. And, Rogue One‘s strong showing is a fitting way for Disney to end its big year, considering that 2016 kicked off with Star Wars: The Force Awakens continuing its own dominant box-office run. (Released on Dec. 18 of last year, The Force Awakens ultimately grossed $2.07 billion worldwide for Disney, with a large chunk of that coming in 2016 and counting toward this year’s tally.)

Following up on The Force Awakens‘ record-setting success, Disney churned out no less than three movies that went on to gross more than $1 billion globally—the animated hit Zootopia, Marvel’s Captain America: Civil War, and Pixar’s Finding Dory. Meanwhile, Rogue One is forecasted to join that list with what should also end up being a worldwide haul north of $1 billion. Other big movies for Disney this year include The Jungle Book, Marvel’s Doctor Strange, and another animated hit in November’s Moana.

While not all of Disney’s 2016 releases struck box office gold—Alice Through the Looking Glass and The BFG led the list of disappointments—the studio managed to find success across all of its silos. Whether it was live-action and animated movies—or those produced by previously-acquired units Pixar, Lucasfilm, and Marvel Studios—Disney churned out a variety of mega-blockbusters throughout 2016.

“This historic achievement is possible because all of our film studios are bringing their absolute best to the table, telling great stories of all kinds that resonate with audiences across borders, gender, and generations,” Alan Horn, chairman of The Walt Disney Studios, said in a statement.

The film studio’s success has come at an opportune time for Disney, which needed a silver lining for a year in which subscriber losses at cash-cow cable network ESPN and declining advertising sales continued to weigh on the company’s revenue. Disney’s big year also comes amid what should be another record year for Hollywood in general. The industry is on pace to break the yearly box office record set in 2015, when Hollywood studios topped $11 billion in domestic ticket sales for the first time ever.

From Fortune.com

 

Disney Picks Alden Ehrenreich to Play Young Han Solo

One of the most coveted acting roles in the galaxy has finally been cast.

Disney said Sunday that Alden Ehrenreich, the break-out star of Coen Brothers movie “Hail Caesar!”, will be taking on the mantle of “Star Wars” rogue Han Solo in a new film about the character’s early life. The selection was announced at the Future Filmmaker panel at the Star Wars Celebration Europe that featured director Rian Johnson (Star Wars: Episode VIII) and surprise guests Mark Hamill, Carrie Fisher and John Boyega.

WESTWOOD, CA - FEBRUARY 01:  Actor Alden Ehrenreich arrives at the premiere of Universal Pictures' 'Hail, Caesar!' at Regency Village Theatre on February 1, 2016 in Westwood, California.  (Photo by Axelle/Bauer-Griffin/FilmMagic)

Alongside the central Star Wars movies, Disney plans a number of spin-offs, set to focus on popular characters such as Solo and taciturn bounty hunter Boba Fett.

Other actors reportedly considered for the role included Jack Reynor from “Transformers: Age of Extinction” and “Macbeth,” “Fury” star Logan Lerman, “Brooklyn” actor Emory Cohen, and “Everybody Wants Some” actor Blake Jenner.

Netflix Exclusive Disney Movie Deal in U.S. Kicks In This Fall

Netflix’s exclusive deal with Disney for pay-TV window rights to the Mouse House’s movie titles in the U.S. will commence in September.

Under the pact — signed three and a half years ago — Netflix will become the exclusive U.S. pay-TV home of the latest films from Disney, Marvel, Lucasfilm and Pixar, chief content officer Ted Sarandos wrote in a blog post Monday. Currently, Starz has the “pay one” output rights to Disney titles in the States.

Netflix’s U.S. rights cover Disney movies starting with 2016 theatrical releases, which means American streaming subs will not have access to “Star Wars: The Force Awakens.” Instead, Starz will have streaming rights to the blockbuster space epic in the U.S.

Zootopia

Disney’s 2016 movie slate includes “Zootopia” as well as “The Jungle Book,” “Captain America: Civil War,” “Alice Through the Looking Glass,” “Finding Dory,” Steven Spielberg’s “The BFG,” “Pete’s Dragon,” “Doctor Strange,” “Moana” and “Rogue One: A Star Wars Story.”

“The 2016 (Disney) releases will start rolling on in September and we’ll share specific dates/titles closer to their premiere on the service,” a Netflix rep said.

Meanwhile, Netflix also disclosed that several older Disney titles will be leaving the service in June. Those include “Hercules” (June 1) as well as “Mulan” and “Hunchback of Notre Dame” (June 24); Disney movies that will remain include “Tarzan,” “Robin Hood,” “Lilo & Stitch” and “Emperor’s New Groove.”

Emperor's New Groove

In Canada, Netflix’s output deal with Disney began with 2015 releases after the previous agreements for the pay-TV window with Corus Entertainment and Bell Canada expired (which means subs in the Great White North will have access to “Force Awakens”).

Star Wars Force Awakens

From Variety

‘Star Wars: The Force Awakens’ Shatters Global Box Office Records

Star Wars - The-Force-Awakens

“Star Wars: The Force Awakens” shattered box office records with an estimated $517 million in worldwide ticket sales through Sunday, a staggering debut that re-established the celebrated space saga as a global phenomenon under Walt Disney Co.

The first “Star Wars” film in a decade recorded the biggest domestic opening in Hollywood’s history, collecting $238 million over the weekend in the United States and Canada. It also set records in Britain, Australia, Russia and elsewhere as fans embraced a new chapter in the galactic battle between good and evil.

Thousands joined a mock lightsaber battle in Los Angeles, where an Australian couple married in line for the film. President Obama ended a news conference on Friday saying he needed to head to a White House screening of the movie, and presidential candidate Hillary Clinton closed Saturday’s Democratic debate saying, “May the Force be with you.”

“I don’t think ever in the history of movies has their been more hype leading up to release of a film,” said Jeff Bock, senior box office analyst at Exhibitor Relations Co. “This is a huge, huge win.”

The film’s financial and critical success mark a victory for Disney Chief Executive Bob Iger’s strategy of acquiring proven brands, including Pixar Animation and comic book powerhouse Marvel, to fuel Disney’s entertainment empire.

Disney purchased “Star Wars” producer Lucasfilm for $4 billion in 2012 as part of his bet on big-budget films.

Movie theater attendance in the United States and Canada, the world’s largest film market, has barely changed in a decade as online and mobile platforms exploded. Subscribers to Disney’s sports powerhouse, ESPN, have shrunk, a much-noted sign of pressure on traditional media. The turnout for “Star Wars” is an encouraging result for Disney, rival media companies and movie theaters.

“We have so many options for entertainment, yet look at where everyone is flocking this weekend – to the multiplex,” said Paul Dergarabedian, senior media analyst at box office tracking firm Rentrak. “Disney has this down to a science.”

Global sales for “Force Awakens” finished second only to the dinosaur film “Jurassic World,” which in its June opening garnered $525 million worldwide, including China, where the “Star Wars” film will not open for weeks. “Jurassic World” took $208.8 million at domestic theaters in its first weekend.

“Force Awakens” is the seventh installment in the epic science-fiction franchise created by George Lucas in 1977.

Filmgoers reveled in the return to the “Star Wars” galaxy, dressing as Jedi or Sith, carrying lightsabers and cheering when classic characters such as Princess Leia or Chewbacca appeared on screen. Theaters added showtimes to meet demand.

Disney plans four “Star Wars” movies through 2019, plus major expansions at its U.S. theme parks to incorporate the droids, spaceships and otherworldly creatures of the universe Lucas invented. “Force Awakens” toys, clothing, home accessories and video games already pervade stores ahead of Christmas.

A Reuters Breakingviews analysis last week calculated that Disney may be on track to triple its Lucasfilm investment and earn an average of $669 million off the franchise in each of the next six years.

Nostalgia, plus a carefully planned, months-long release of film trailers and character profiles boosted interest. Disney, which spent more than $200 million to make “Force Awakens,” also created intrigue by keeping the plot largely secret.

Critics lauded the movie’s throwback feel, doses of humor and the performances of newcomers Daisy Ridley, John Boyega and Oscar Isaac. Audiences awarded an “A” grade in polling by survey firm CinemaScore.

Disney took steps to attract more women and girls to the series, including casting Ridley as the star and running commercials during shows such as “Keeping Up with the Kardashians.” Forty-two percent of the weekend’s domestic audience was female, Disney said.

“Force Awakens” could become the highest-grossing movie of all time, box office analysts said. “Avatar” holds that title with $2.8 billion in global sales.

The wild card is China, the world’s second-largest movie market, where “Force Awakens” opens Jan. 9. The last “Star Wars” movie in 2005 collected just $9 million there. Disney made an effort to build buzz, placing 500 miniature Stormtroopers at the Great Wall and striking a deal to stream the six earlier “Star Wars” films through video service Tencent.

The Force Awakens’ Grosses an Amazing $120.5 Million on Opening Day

Star Wars - The-Force-Awakens

Standing next to his wife, who was decked out in a R2-D2 hoodie, Chris Barreno, 36, was getting ready Saturday for his second viewing of “Star Wars: The Force Awakens” at the ArcLight Cinemas in El Segundo.

The Long Beach accountant, his wife, Monique Matta, and her extended family were among the legions of fans decked out in their “Star Wars” gear and novelty 3-D glasses for the seventh installment of the film, which has already amassed recording-breaking box-office numbers and further bolstered the newest release of the beloved sci-fi series.

J.J. Abrams’ highly anticipated take on George Lucas’ franchise collected an estimated $120.5 million in its first day, including $57 million for Thursday night preview shows, making it the highest single day on record, according to Walt Disney Co. The tally topped the previous record holder, “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows — Part 2,” which grossed $91 million from its Thursday and Friday shows in July 2011. The film has already grossed more than $250 million worldwide.

“It far exceeded my expectations,” said Barreno, a fan of the space saga since he saw “The Empire Strikes Back” when he was 2. He noted that he and his wife were looking to parse out more details they might have missed upon first seeing the new film.

“You go into it cautiously optimistic, hopeful that they make a good movie, and with the new cast and characters they really did a good job. It’s one of the better ones … and it gives you something to look forward to for the next few movies.”

The numbers for “Star Wars: The Force Awakens” are unprecedented for a film premiering in December. The record holder for the biggest opening during the month is “The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey,” which took in $85 million in domestic receipts in 2012.

Audience polling firm CinemaScore gave the new release an A grade, including an A-plus among women and younger audiences. It also earned a 95% fresh rating from RottenTomatoes.

The space opera, which mixes old veterans with new faces and sees the evil Empire replaced by the even more evil First Order, opened wide domestically on Thursday at 7 p.m., showing in 4,134 theaters, a December record in and of itself.

“The Force Awakens” is expected to gross $180 million to $220 million through Sunday in its domestic opening weekend. However, those numbers began to look like conservative estimates following Thursday and Friday screenings.

At that rate, the long-awaited space epic is poised to out-earn Universal’s dino reboot, “Jurassic World,” which broke the record for the biggest domestic opening by selling $208.8 million in tickets last June.

And while many analysts expected the film to collect $1.5 billion to $2 billion globally, “The Force Awakens” is now predicted to gross $2.6 billion worldwide. That would make it the second-highest grossing picture of all time, trailing only 2009’s “Avatar,” which took in $2.8 billion worldwide.

The film began its international rollout on Wednesday and has grossed an additional $130 million internationally so far, bringing its global cumulative box office to $250 million. That was in part thanks to record-breaking opening-day sales in Britain, Germany, Australia, Brazil, Spain and Japan. It debuted in 12 countries on Wednesday and an additional 32 on Thursday. The movie won’t debut in China, the second-largest film market, until Jan. 9

As expected, “The Force Awakens” dwarfed the weekend’s other new releases, including Tina Fey and Amy Poehler’s buddy comedy “Sisters” and the live-action animated sequel “Alvin and the Chipmunks: The Road Chip,” which grossed an estimated $4.9 million and $4.1 million, respectively, according to Box Office Mojo. Incidentally, both films included famous “Star Wars” touchstones in their own marketing campaigns. The weekend’s other new release, Holocaust drama “Son of Saul” was only shown in three theaters. “The Hunger Games: Mockingjay — Part 2” dropped to $1.55 million in its fourth week and has grossed $250.3 million since its November release.

Lucas’ original six-film series posted $4.4 billion in worldwide gross, with the “Revenge of the Sith” — the sixth installment — hitting theaters back in 2005. So far, the highest grosser in the franchise was Lucasfilm’s 1999 release “Star Wars: Episode I — The Phantom Menace,” with $1.02 billion worldwide. 

Disney put up $4 billion to buy Lucasfilm, the original “Star Wars” studio, in 2012 and it was a smart move. After “The Force Awakens,” the studio will roll out four more films over the next four years and the revenue they generate could top $25 billion over the next five years, based on analyst estimates. Despite the record-breaking tally, shares of Disney were down more than 3% on Wall Street on Friday.

From the Los Angeles Times