A long time ago, somewhere in southern california, a bearded young man dreamed of turning old movies about samurai, eastern philosophies and something like flash gordon into an operatic adventure set in space. That dream finally came true as the seminal sci-fi film Star Wars, written and directed by George Lucas, and released on May 25, 1977, 40 years ago.
The original $11 million invested in the filming of star wars (eventually renamed star wars episode iv: a new hope years later) is possibly the best investment ever made in Hollywood. Even when adjusted for inflation, the movie would have only cost about $45 million in today’s dollars, or less than 20% of what it cost to produce the seventh Star Wars movie, The Force Awakens. i>, in 2015 and much less than the $200 million this summer’s action blockbuster guardians of the galaxy vol. 2 ran.
The original Star Wars movie is the third highest-grossing film of all time, grossing nearly $2 billion when adjusted for inflation. that alone would have made the original investment spectacular:
Although Gone with the Wind remains the highest-grossing film of all time (when adjusted for inflation over the 78 years since the film’s first release), no film can be compared to money. -make empire that unleashed star wars. Powering at least 10 lucrative sequels and prequels, five TV series and multiple made-for-TV movies (so far), as well as billions of dollars worth of books and merchandise, Lucas couldn’t have imagined how successful his brainchild would be. become in the next 40 years.
in making star wars, lucas pioneered new camera technologies, new filming styles, new sound design techniques, and most importantly, a new way of thinking about film. Science fiction. unlike the generically clean, shiny, metallic futuristic alien worlds of other sci-fi movies of the time, like logan’s run, lucas’s star wars universe was inhabited, dusty, and creaky, much like to our own world. the length and detail of star wars made logan’s career seem cheesy and old-fashioned by comparison.
star wars is a testament not only to lucas’ cinematic skills, but also to his innovation in the film industry. The film itself set the tone for arguably every sci-fi action movie that followed (and even caused Paramount Pictures to cancel plans for a new Star Trek series to be followed up with a feature film). the technical success of star wars spawned other lucas creations, including the audio company thx, the visual effects company industrial light and magic (which has done effects on every star wars movie and hundreds from other films) and the animation giant Pixar. all of which were originally part of lucasfilm, the production company lucas founded to help him realize his artistic vision.
in the intervening decades. Lucas has been criticized for remastering and altering the original Star Wars films to their detriment, and for directing some rather bland and procedural follow-up films. But there’s no denying that Lucas created a universe of great ideas that will live on long after he and his first fans are dead, thrilling and inspiring countless more generations of moviegoers.
Lucasfilm, which also produced the legendary Indiana Jones series, was a private company until its sale to Disney in 2012 for $4 billion. so it is impossible to know how much revenue the company generated from the toys and other merchandise before they were sold. But to put the value of that sale into perspective: Disney paid for both Lucasfilm and the rights to the entire Marvel superhero universe. and even that high pricewas a great bargain. The two Star Wars movies that Disney has released since 2012 (The Force Awakens and Rogue One) have grossed $1.5 billion in ticket sales alone, and have already recovered nearly 40% of disney spent $4 billion on the studio.
but the real money for disney is leveraging the star wars brand for just about anything you can think of: toys, games, merchandise, cruises, theme park attractions, hotels. The list is endless and Disney chases them all. there will soon be a star wars themed section at disneyland and disney world in california and florida, where kids and adults alike can spend their days riding star wars attractions, drinking star wars drinks (blue milk, maybe?), eating star wars food, sleeping in star wars rooms, and of course, shopping for star wars gear.
disney generated nearly $17 billion from its theme parks and resorts in 2016, and more than $5 billion from merchandise and licenses. And those numbers will grow even higher when the three new Star Wars movies are released in the next three years, as people become more immersed in the expanded universe of Lucas’ work.
And it all started with a little movie from 1977, made for a paltry $11 million, about a farm boy who discovers religion and goes to war against an evil space empire.