Disney Debuts ‘Star Wars’ Charity Push Ahead of 40th Anniversary Celebration

Disney is kicking off the Star Wars franchise’s 40th birthday party with a new fundraising campaign aimed at raising money for UNICEF and Starlight Children’s Foundation.

Star Wars: Force for Change, a charitable initiative from Disney’s Lucasfilm and online fundraising platform Omaze, launched a new campaign on Tuesday that will allow fans of the sci-fi film saga to donate money to those global children’s charities for a shot at winning one of three Star Wars-themed experiences.

Called “Past, Present, and Future,” the fundraising campaign features potential prizes like the opportunity to appear in Disney’s upcoming standalone Han Solo movie or a one-night stay at Skywalker Ranch, the secluded workplace of Lucasfilm founder George Lucas. Another winner will get tickets to the global premiere of the next installment of the Star Wars saga, The Last Jedi. One grand prize winner will be able to experience all three of those prizes, which will be handed out to randomly-selected donors on a weekly basis until the campaign ends on May 11.

To announce the new campaign, Omaze released a video featuring Star Wars actors Mark Hamill and Daisy Ridley encouraging fans to donate for a crack at the prizes:

Ultimate Star Wars Experience Announcement

The campaign kicks off as Disney gets ready for the Star Wars Celebration fan convention that begins on Thursday in Orlando. Star Wars fans will gather at the event to see various actors from the films (Mark Hamill, Billy Dee Williams, Hayden Christensen) and attend fan-focused events and panels while celebrating four decades of a franchise that debuted in May 1977 with Star Wars: A New Hope. The convention is also expected to reveal the first movie trailer for The Last Jedi, which hits theaters in December.

The combination of the Star Wars 40th anniversary and excitement over The Last Jedi likely means the months leading up to December’s premiere will feature a prolonged marketing push from Disney. The latest Star Wars film is easily one of the most-anticipated movies of 2017 and it is a strong bet to help Disney smash more box office records this year. In 2015, Star Wars: The Force Awakens soared to a new domestic box office record with $936 million in North America, on its way to more than $2 billion in global ticket sales.

The Last Jedi will be the second installment in the trilogy of new Star Wars films coming from Disney, which bought Lucasfilm in 2012. A third film is planned for 2019 and Disney is also releasing a handful of spin-offs, like last year’s Rogue One.

From Fortune

‘Star Wars: The Force Awakens’ Crosses $1 Billion in Record Time

Star Wars - The-Force-Awakens

Moviegoers continued to unwrap Disney’s box office holdover “Star Wars: The Force Awakens” over the holiday weekend as the space saga dominated a host of Christmas Day newcomers, including Paramount’s “Daddy’s Home” and 20th Century Fox’s “Joy.”

The latest installment in the “Star Wars” franchise grossed an estimated $153.5 million in the U.S. and Canada in its second weekend, beating the lower end of analyst expectations of $140 million. This drives the J.J. Abrams-directed picture to a to-date domestic gross of $544.5 million.

“The Force Awakens,” which cost an estimated $200 million to produce, debuted last weekend to record domestic ticket sales of $248 million. It also grossed $281 million overseas for a global total of $529 million, topping the previous worldwide debut benchmark set in June by “Jurassic World” ($525 million). This week, with an international estimated gross of $546 million to date, the film became the fastest to surpass $1 billion globally.

From the Los Angeles Times

‘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 is Strong with this One….’Star Wars: The Force Awakens’ Holds Record for Largest Opening Weekend

Star Wars - Force Awakens

The Force, from a galaxy far, far away, rose from its slumber this weekend to assist Disney’s “Star Wars: The Force Awakens” at the box office. Grossing an estimated $238 million in the U.S. and Canada, the seventh installment of the George Lucas-created franchise now holds the record for the largest opening weekend of a film ever.

The box office has not seen a performance like this since Universal’s “Jurassic World” opened in June ($208.8 million) and, prior to that, 2012’s premiere of “Marvel’s The Avengers” from Disney ($207.4 million).

Ahead of the weekend, those familiar with audience tracking surveys predicted an opening weekend of $180 million to $220 million. But by Friday afternoon, those projections began to look increasingly conservative.

Playing in over 4,000 theaters domestically, “Star Wars” began its massive run with a record-breaking $57 million in ticket sales for early Thursday night showings. That far exceeded the previous benchmark of $43.5 million set by “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows – Part 2” in July 2011. When Friday numbers were tallied, the official first-day total was an estimated $120.5 million. This gave the J.J. Abrams-directed picture the highest single-day profits on record and it became first film to break the $100-million mark in a single day.

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

Audiences gave the new release an A grade, and an A-plus among women and younger audiences, according to polling firm CinemaScore. It also earned a 95% positive rating from critic site Rotten Tomatoes.

Such a showing is on par with the palpable anticipation demonstrated by fans and the movie theater industry ahead of the release. Audiences set a number of records for advance ticket sales on sites like Fandango. The movie racked up more than $100 million in pre-sales by its Thursday night opening. Additionally, when Disney debuted the final theatrical trailer during a “Monday Night Football” game on ESPN that coincided with the tickets going on sale online, the trailer was viewed 128 million times in 24 hours.

The interest of fans led to expectations across the industry that “Star Wars” would drive up ticket sales as October and November box office numbers, compared with last year, are lower. Theater owners set aside huge portions of their auditoriums for the film, with some showings as early as 2 a.m.

Other wide releases also premiering this week included Fox’s “Alvin and the Chipmunks: The Road Chip” and Universal’s “Sisters.” Neither, however, could come close to the film starring Harrison Ford, Carrie Fisher and Daisy Ridley among others.

The “Star Wars” box office takeover was also supported by some unusual promotions for ticket buyers. AMC Theatres offered new movie posters to people who bought Imax 3D tickets for Sunday showings. High-end chain Cinépolis brought in members of the 501st Legion — a group of enthusiasts dressed in Stormtrooper garb — to take pictures with moviegoers in the lobby.

Disney’s sustained marketing campaign tapped into the nostalgia for the original trilogy and got people talking about the movie via social media. On Twitter, the movie was mentioned roughly 2 million times on Thursday alone, making it the most tweeted-about movie ever, according to social media analytics firm Union Metrics.

Much is at stake for the Walt Disney Co., which, in 2012 paid $4.1 billion for production company Lucasfilm, largely for the “Star Wars” franchise. The big numbers for “The Force Awakens” bode well for the future of the franchise, and not just at the box office. Burbank-based Disney also stands to generate sizable returns across other business segments, including video games, merchandise and theme parks.

It remains to be seen whether “Star Wars” will have a halo effect on the industry and get theater goers to also see other movies. Next week, films including Sony’s “Concussion,” Paramount’s “Daddy’s Home,” Fox’s “Joy” and Warner Bros.’ “Point Break” will hit theaters. Some analysts worry such films could get lost in the shadow of “Star Wars,” though some suggest otherwise as “Star Wars” brought out consumers who haven’t been to a theater in a long time – welcome news to theater owners who have seen their attendance stagnate in recent years.

“You’ve got people coming out who aren’t frequent moviegoers,” said Will Palmer, chief executive of the film marketing analytics firm Movio. “This is reigniting a whole raft of customers who don’t usually go to the movies and have disengaged with the cinema.”

The industry also awaits to see if “Star Wars’” force can help push U.S.-Canada ticket sales to a record $11 billion. The year 2013 was best for the box office at $10.9 billion.

From the Los Angeles Times

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

Mark Hamill Makes Star Wars Weekends Debut

Mickey & Mark Hamill

Womp rats, you’ve been warned. Luke is in town.

Actor Mark Hamill, who portrayed farmboy-turned-galactic-hero Luke Skywalker in the Star Wars saga, makes his debut appearance at Star Wars Weekends today at Disney’s Hollywood Studios. He is scheduled to appear today, tomorrow and Sunday.

Activities where guests can see the acclaimed actor include the “Legends of the Force” motorcade and a star conversation about his career and role in the original Star Wars trilogy. To enable more guests to see and hear this special edition talk show, entitled “A Conversation with Mark Hamill,” the Star Wars Weekends event team has made arrangements for a simulcast at various locations throughout the park. Be sure to ask a cast member when you arrive for viewing locations.

We caught up with Mark at the theme park while he was doing final walk-throughs with the Disney Parks Entertainment team. After posing for a few photos with Jedi Mickey Mouse, he spoke with us about the Star Warslegacy, his childhood visits to Disneyland and what makes Star Wars fans special to him.

 

 

Star Wars Episode VII Cast Finally Announced

star-wars-episode-7-cast

From StarWars.com –

The Star Wars team is thrilled to announce the cast of Star Wars: Episode VII.

Actors John Boyega, Daisy Ridley, Adam Driver, Oscar Isaac, Andy Serkis, Domhnall Gleeson, and Max von Sydow will join the original stars of the saga, Harrison Ford, Carrie Fisher, Mark Hamill, Anthony Daniels, Peter Mayhew, and Kenny Baker in the new film.

Director J.J. Abrams says, “We are so excited to finally share the cast of Star Wars: Episode VII. It is both thrilling and surreal to watch the beloved original cast and these brilliant new performers come together to bring this world to life, once again. We start shooting in a couple of weeks, and everyone is doing their best to make the fans proud.”

Star Wars: Episode VII is being directed by J.J. Abrams from a screenplay by Lawrence Kasdan and Abrams. Kathleen Kennedy, J.J. Abrams, and Bryan Burk are producing, and John Williams returns as the composer. The movie opens worldwide on December 18, 2015.