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Update: Disney buys Lucasfilm for $4B : 'Star Wars: Episode 7' due in 2015 (poll)

"Stars Wars" Imperial storm troopers. They work for Disney now.
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UPDATE 4: Iger and his team see upside in the deal in the future, in terms of exploiting new filmmaking opportunities and realizing new consumer-product opportunities. The idea seems to be that "Star Wars" merchandising has room to run outside North America.

Also, Disney doesn't have a completely free hand with "Star Wars," due to intellectual-property claims that Fox and Paramount may hold from the films that they worked on.

UPDATE 3: In its last earnings report, Disney had over $4 billion in cash. However, Iger pointed out that Disney expects a return on Lucasfilm "well in advance of its cost of capital," suggesting that the company didn't burn half its cash on hand to make this acquisition. Although the company is proposing to buy back, in several years, the shares it issued to complete the deal. This will hit Disney a bit in terms of share value — issuing new stock will dilute the value of existing stock.

UPDATE 2: Disney is placing this acqusition strongly in the context of the Marvel acquisition, which took place in 2009 and also cost Disney $4 billion. 

UPDATE: On a conference call, Disney CEO Bob Iger said the company will release a new "Star Wars" film every two to three years. As for new movies, he said that there's substiantial "pent-up demand" for new installments. Other reports say the next installment, "Star Wars: Episode VII," could appear as early as 2015.

Disney says that the Lucasfilm acquisition is almost entirely based on the "Star Wars" franchise. In 2005, when the last "Star Wars" film was released, Lucasfilm generated $550 million in income. (Story continues after the poll.)

PREVIOUSLY: Disney and Lucasfilm just jointly announced that George Lucas is selling his 100-percent stake in his company to the biggest name in Hollywood entertainment. Price: $4.05 billion. It's a roughly 50-50 cash-and-stock deal, according to reports.

This is fairly huge and represents a passing-of-the-torch on arguably the most important franchise in American entertainment. If you ever wondered how much "Star Wars" was really worth, you know now. What's kind of interesting is that, if you go by the press release from Disney, "Star Wars" has brought in $4.4 billion in global box office revenues since the original film back in 1977. It has presumably brought in many more times that in tie-ins and merchandise. So maybe Disney got itself a pretty good deal here, given that new films are reportedly in production.

This is from the release:

Under the deal, Disney will acquire ownership of Lucasfilm, a leader in entertainment, innovation and technology, including its massively popular and "evergreen" Star Wars franchise and its operating businesses in live action film production, consumer products, animation, visual effects, and audio post production. Disney will also acquire the substantial portfolio of cutting-edge entertainment technologies that have kept audiences enthralled for many years. Lucasfilm, headquartered in San Francisco, operates under the names Lucasfilm Ltd., LucasArts, Industrial Light & Magic, and Skywalker Sound, and the present intent is for Lucasfilm employees to remain in their current locations.

Kathleen Kennedy will become Lucasfilm's president. Her new boss will be the relatively new head of Walt Disney Studios, Alan Horn. 

And if you're keeping track, this means that Disney now owns some of the most storied brands in entertainment: ESPN, Pixar, and of course Marvel, the latter of which has been keeping Disney filmmaking on the map during a trying time for the movie division.

The acquisition provides Disney with an opportunity to achieve juggernaut potential as it rolls out more superhero sequels through Marvel and gets to preside over the release of episode 7 of "Star Wars," due out in 2015. Will the Force be with it? It certainly was with Lucasfilm, which had continued making hundreds of million on "Star Wars."

George Lucas isn't quite ready to step away from his epic space opera just yet, as it moves well into its fourth decade. He said back in June that he planned to retire, but he's serving as a "creative consultant" on the forthcoming film, which will be followed by even more in the future. 

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