When Disney (DIS) purchased Lucasfilm for $4 billion in 2012, the move was widely seen as a huge box office move. The acquisition was led by the announcement of a new Star Wars trilogy beginning in 2015. This move alone should have been enough to please shareholders, but the company continues to find ways to increase revenue from this large acquisition.
The release of three new Star Wars movies should pay off huge for investors in Disney stock. After all, the six movies released in the series have all been blockbusters and rank among the highest grossing movies of all time. Here is a look at the box office from the last three Star Wars live action movies released in theaters:
"The Phantom Menace"
"Attack of the Clones"
"Revenge of the Sith"
Domestic Box Office
Foreign Box Office
Total Box Office
As you can see, the last three movies made over $2.5 billion worldwide. The three new movies should top that with a rise in ticket prices, the potential for 3D or IMAX screens, and the return of several actors from the original trilogy.
Disney CEO Bob Iger also confirmed that the company is working on "Spin-off movies". This has been a hotly talked about topic on Star Wars fan sites, as users and writers speculate which characters could star in their own movies. Initial front runners include Yoda, Boba Fett, Jabba the Hutt, and Chewbacca.
Along with the movie segment, Disney is now considering getting as much revenue from the Star Wars brand via its television platforms. Disney announced yesterday that it had cancelled "Star Wars: The Clone Wars", an animated show that saw five seasons on Cartoon Network (TWX). Here is the official statement from Disney:
"As we enter into an exciting new era focused on the next Star Wars trilogy, Lucasfilm has decided to pursue a new direction in animated programming. We are exploring a whole new Star Wars series set in a time period previously untouched in Star Wars films or television programming."
The move is not a surprising one, as the license with Cartoon Network had expired. Disney will now shift and create an animated show for one of its own networks like Disney XD. This is a huge positive for Disney's already strong Media segment. "Star Wars: The Clone Wars" was the number one show among boys ages 9-14, which is one of the key demographics for Disney's XD channel. The show would pair nicely with "Spider-Man" and "Avengers" shows that air on the network.
A new animated Star Wars show that will explore a time period that is "untouched" could also boost interest in the upcoming movies or video games. Disney has a chance to parallel the new animated storyline with either of these mediums in a direct way to increase character awareness and box office potential.
Along with animated, Disney is in the process of extending the Star Wars brand to live-action television programming. I wrote on this subject in January, highlighting the possibility of two huge television shows centering around "S.H.I.E.L.D." and "Star Wars". The shows would air on ABC, creating huge advertising possibilities for Disney on broadcast television.
Here were some of the possibilities I gave in that article:
- Could introduce new characters and storylines
- Could follow a storyline from a new Star Wars video game
- Would strongly increase ABC's struggling television ratings
- The two shows could be paired with "Once Upon a Time" to create a trifecta of sci-fi/fantasy television in one night
These two new possibilities for additional Star Wars revenue should help two Disney operating segments. In fiscal 2012, the company's media segment was its highest revenue and profit producer. The media segment saw revenue increase 4% to $19.4 billion. Profit for media rose 8% to $6.6 billion.
The company's studio segment struggled as revenue decreased 8% to $5.8 billion. Profits for the segment rose 17%, but made up only $700 million in profits. The release of "Star Wars VII" and "The Avengers 2" will continue to be one of the reasons why I think the studio segment will have its best year in 2015.
The Star Wars purchase was not cheap for Disney. When I heard the news of the deal, I became bullish on Disney and started to think of the possibilities. Disney has already been proactive in thinking of ways to expand the brand and shareholders will be rewarded as a result.
Disney is expected to post earnings per share of $3.45 in fiscal 2013 and $3.88 in fiscal 2014 (Yahoo Finance). Those results could be helped by an earlier cash-in than expected from the acquisition of Lucasfilm. Revenue is expected to rise 7% and 6% respectively over the next two years according to analysts. Those numbers could also be helped by new initiatives centered around the Star Wars brand. The next two years will set up perfectly for the launch of the new Star Wars trilogy and Disney will be at the forefront.
Shares of Disney trade near their fifty two week high of $57.75. I would wait for a pullback as shares are inflated from the strong box office results of "Oz The Great and Powerful". Shares are not expensive at this price, but I believe investors will have better buy-in opportunities. Put Disney on your watchlist and be ready to go long soon.