There used to be a time when the value of a movie was based solely on it's box office receipts. A time before merchandising and the infinite value that it adds to the overall earnings of a film. Few were savvy enough to see the value in endlessly churning out tee shirts, mugs, hats and toys. Then George Lucas came along.
One of the most famous deals in movie history, George Lucas reportedly held on to merchandising rights when he cut a deal with 20th Century Fox for the release of his earlier Star Wars films. He even lowered his directors fee by $500K to seal the deal. Ironically, that is because Fox thought it would be a flop!
Any guesses as to what it was worth to him? It was a whopping $5.5bn. Yes, in one of the shrewdest business moves known to man, George Lucas managed to earn over five billion dollars from the merchandising of Star Wars. In 1978, more than 40 million Star Wars figures flew off the shelves for gross sales of more than $100 million. Overall, the first six movies generated in excess of $20bn in merch revenue and Lucas's cut was about a quarter of that.
Part of that fortune came from the licensing of the Star Wars brand. It was estimated to be worth over $215m annually when Lucas held the rights. That included all of the usual things such as Lego, clothing, gaming rights, including console games and some of the best movie themed slots, figures and board games including Monopoly and Trivial Pursuit. Frankly the list is almost endless.
Disney acquired Lucas Films in 2012 for over $4bn and it is estimated that their cut of the licensing agreements is worth even more. Some put it at over $500m per year. That is because Star Wars is one of the most merchandised franchises in the world.
Kenner (used to be part of the Hasbro toy company) created die-cast models to coincide with the release of the first film. They were a huge hit. Today, those original figures are worth a small fortune. In fact, the most expensive Star Wars action figure ever sold at auction is a rocket-firing Boba Fett, which went for $34,000 in 2016. At those kind of prices, you may want to head into the attic and have a search around for your old toys. It may even make you rich!
Since the first movie was released in 1977, seven more have joined the ranks. The ninth Star Wars film, Episode IX, is due to hit our cinema screens on December 20th 2019. Undoubtedly that will lead to a whole host of new products hitting the shelves just in time for Christmas.