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Disney is pulling out all the stops to promote its lineup of new "Star Wars" merchandise.
On Friday, Disney is unveiling hundreds of new products for its December release of "Star Wars: The Last Jedi," including toys, clothing, jewelry and drones.
The centerpiece is a new augmented reality experience on the "Star Wars" app called "Find the Force."
At over 20,000 retail locations in 30 countries, players can scan signs to unlock 15 characters, which will pop up on their smartphone camera screen, like "Pokemon Go" for "Star Wars" fans. The game is an augmented reality treasure hunt, where the prize is a glimpse at the characters that will be featured in the upcoming film.
There's incentive to share photos of the AR characters: Fans who tweet photos or videos of the AR characters with a hashtag, are entered into a sweepstakes for tickets to the film's premiere. Fans who can't make the trip to the store can unlock characters by scanning a code on the website.
This year, the "Star Wars" toys have a particular tech focus, and Apple Stores are a big partner. They'll be selling the app-enabled products, including an R2-D2 robot, a drone that looks like a Starfighter from the film, and a Droid inventor kit. They will also host coding sessions for kids, and some stores will have executives from Lucasfilm's Industrial Light & Magic, who worked on the movie, to host special sessions.
"Star Wars" is the biggest toy franchise around, driving $618 million in U.S. toy sales in the last 12 months, and far more overseas.
"When there is a feature film like 'The Last Jedi' hitting theaters, it can drive sales of 'Star Wars' related merchandise 200 percent to 300 percent over a non-movie year," said toy industry expert and TTPM.com founder Jim Silver.
Investors are counting on "Star Wars" to be an engine for Disney for years to come. Disney is investing $1 billion to build each of the two "Star Wars" theme parks, which are scheduled to open in California and Florida in 2019.
Force Friday comes as Disney's media networks, including ABC and ESPN are under pressure from cord cutting, and facing questions about the transition to digital. The Wall Street Journal reported on Wednesday that ABC plans to lay off up to 300 people.
That makes franchises such as "Star Wars," as well as Marvel's "Avengers," all the more important: Their content can be exploited across Disney's various divisions, and can't be found anywhere else.