Way back in the mid 1970s, George Lucas was a young, relatively unknown filmmaker when he brought his Star Wars script to 20th Century Fox. At this point Lucas had one film under his belt, THX 1138, which was not exactly a major financial or critical hit. Lucas’ American Graffiti had not been released yet, and therefore he had little power or leverage in the industry. According to Deadline, Lucas was paid only $150K to write, produce, and direct the first Star Wars film (aka A New Hope or Episode IV), which he had already planned out as the first in a 9-picture series.
Fox didn’t exactly believe in Star Wars — sci-fi was not the mega-profitable genre it is today — and grudgingly coughed-up around $11 million for its production budget (Star Wars: A New Hope ultimately grossed more than $775M worldwide). During the negotiations, however, Lucas managed to secure both the sequel and merchandising rights; toys and tie-ins weren’t really on the Hollywood radar — this was a major, major coup for Lucas.
Obviously, both Fox and Lucas profited wildly from the Star Wars saga over the intervening years (Fox distributed the first 6 films). Lucas’s original deal with Fox ensured that he owned all of the Star Wars films, except for A New Hope. When Lucas sold Lucasfilm to Disney back in 2012 for $4 billion (quite a bargain for Disney when you think about it), they assumed complete control of the franchise, with the exception of A New Hope.
This brings us full-circle to today’s Disney-Fox deal. According to CBR, buried within the terms of this acquisition is ownership transfer of A New Hope to Disney. Disney was already due to assume full rights for Episodes 1-3 and 5-6 in 2020, but Episode 4 would remain at Fox. In other words, prior to today, Fox still had distribution rights for A New Hope, and no intention giving it up.
The Disney-Fox deal will take 12-18 months to complete, as it requires shareholder approval and a thumbs-up from U.S. gov’t regulators. This deal represents an epic, seismic shift in Hollywood, as Fox exits from being a major studio and Disney becomes arguably the most powerful studio in the world. Disney’s portfolio is now truly astounding (Pixar, LucasFilm, Marvel, Simpsons, Avatar, Nat Geo, ESPN, 60% Hulu, FX), but one could also argue that Star Wars is THE ultimate crown jewel… and now Disney owns 100% of it.
What do you think the new Disney-Fox deal means for the future of Star Wars? Let us know in the comments down below!