"The Force Awakens" is the most highly anticipated movie in a decade, and it's not just Walt Disney Studios' Lucasfilm that will be cashing in.
The latest installment in the hugely successful "Star Wars" franchise has unique appeal to a wide range of audiences, thanks to an older generation of fans of the original films, which is just the right age to introduce their kids to the brand.
Every division of Disney will see a boost from a blockbuster film. The company is working on "Star Wars Land" for its Disneyland and Florida parks; the cable division's Disney XD channel has a "Star Wars Rebels" show airing new episodes now, renewed for a third season; and perhaps most importantly there's an incredible range of consumer products on a scale exceeding the "Frozen"-mania of a few years ago.
"What's different about 'Star Wars' is that it's not just traditional toy consumers, it's not just mom and dad, or a young boy buying into the category," said Piper Jaffray toy industry analyst Stephanie Wissink, who called this a once-in-a-decade consumer product event. "This is ultimately a collector, plus a parent that's buying for nostalgic value, plus a parent buying for their children seeing the films for the first time."
Wissink projects $2 billion-plus worth of toys will be sold in the first year, a number which will only grow as the sequels roll out. In fact, She expects consumer products to ultimately trump box-office revenue. "We think this is going to be really the start of multiple years of the Walt Disney Company bringing content to the marketplace that has tremendous translatability into products," she said.
Of the toymakers, Hasbro and Lego will benefit the most, followed by Jakks Pacific and Mattel. It's notable that Disney has split up the licenses, with each category licensed independently, so all of the major toymakers have a piece of the pie.
Plus there's Electronic Arts, which has the highly anticipated "Star Wars Battlefront" game. Expectations for the release are one factor that has driven up EA shares this year. But GameStop's decision to slash the price of the game by $20, and negative comments by the retailer about the performance of the game raised concerns that the force may not have as powerful an impact on EA as the other stocks.
Then there are a wide range of unexpected companies looking to cash in on "Star Wars" mania. The "Star Wars" logo is emblazoned on everything from Campbell Soup cans and General Mills cereal boxes, to Vans shoes, and CoverGirl makeup. There are even high-end women's heels and booties from a British company called "Irregular Choice."
That's not all. Of course the movie theaters will cash in — particularly Imax. And the theater chains — AMC, Regal, Cinemark, Carmike — are benefiting from immense advance demand. A month before the film's debut more than $50 million in tickets had already been sold. That kind of early warning helps theaters plan ahead and schedule additional screenings to meet moviegoer interest.
"This is the definition of a blockbuster, people lining up around the block," says Rentrak senior analyst Paul Dergarabedian. "'Star Wars' could be the real cherry on top of the cake of a record box-office year for movie theaters. That says that the movie theater is still alive and well despite the fact that there are so many options for entertainment at home and on the small screen."