Disney Ready to Give up on ‘Star Wars’ After Losing Billions

in Disney, Star Wars

Luke Skywalker carrying Yoda in 'Empire Strikes Back'

Credit: Lucasfilm

The Walt Disney Company is fed up with Star Wars movies. According to an extensive new report, after more than a decade, the Mouse House still has yet to make back the billions of dollars Bob Iger spent to purchase the galaxy far, far away, which is a warning sign for films yet to come.

Bob Iger and George Lucas offically signing for Disney acquiring Lucasfilm (Star Wars)
Credit: StarWars.com

Before he stepped down as Disney CEO (for the first time, anyway), Bob Iger authorized billions of expenditures to acquire enormous media companies like Pixar Animation Studios, 21st Century Fox, Marvel Studios, and Lucasfilm. In 2012, Disney purchased Lucasfilm from founder George Lucas for a cool $4.05 billion and, with it, the massively popular and then-dormant Star Wars and Indiana Jones franchises.

Things have not been entirely smooth since then. Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny (2023), the widely promoted last hurrah of Harrison Ford as the two-fisted archaeologist, bombed hard at the box office, losing Disney some $134 million while shutting the door on feature film sequels.

Harrison Ford as Indiana Jones
Credit: Lucasfilm

Related: Bob Iger Says Goodbye to Star Wars Land After Confirming Cancelation

At first glance, Star Wars may be doing a little better for Disney since it was acquired by the Mouse. After all, The Force Awakens (2015) was a colossal box office blockbuster, Disney+ shows like The Mandalorian have become cultural touchstones, and there’s more Star Wars merch out than ever before.

But, according to a new report in Forbes, the five Star Wars films released by Disney have not yet made a profit for the company. Even more dramatically, those movies have actually lost Disney approximately $2.8 billion, making the future of Star Wars movies more than a little shaky.

How can this be? Well, for one thing, The Force Awakens was the most expensive movie ever made, costing an unbelievable $553.2 million. Disney, which produced the film at Pinewood Studios (where the original trilogy was also shot), received massive reimbursements from the United Kingdom via the Audio-Visual Expenditure Credit system, but it’s still not enough.

Rey Skywalker and John Boyega Finn in 'Star Wars' Poster with logo
Credit: Inside the Magic

That’s because both The Last Jedi (2017) and The Rise of Skywalker (2019) cost $300 million and $416 million; meanwhile, Rogue One: A Star Wars Story (2016), at its lowest estimate, cost $200 million to make, which is still on the list of most expensive movies ever, and Solo: A Star Wars Story (2018), actually lost money, a first for the franchise. All told, the $4.05 billion price tag of Star Wars has not been made back its feature films, no matter how impressive the box office seems to be.

It also should be noted that all of the estimated budgets listed above were production budgets and do not include the enormously expensive marketing budgets that accompanied each. Generally speaking, your average blockbuster film marketing costs some 50% of the production budget, meaning that each of those Star Wars films was even more expensive than previously reported.

This is particularly important, given that the Walt Disney Company was only recently trying to claim that not only had Disney shareholders received a handsome return on investment (ROI) for the Lucasfilm purchase but that Bob Iger had made them billions every step of the way. However, numerous issues with the presentation seem to imply that Disney wildly overstated how much it has made off its acquisition of Anakin Skywalker and all his buddies.

Anakin and Ahsoka fighting with lightsabers in 'Ahsoka' Episode 5
Credit: Lucasfilm

Forbes breaks it down:

“The presentation gives the impression that Disney’s Star Wars trilogy generated a 2.9 times return on the purchase of Lucasfilm as that figure is presented next to a timeline of key events in the production company’s history…However, buried in the fine print is the revelation that the purchase price of Lucasfilm isn’t even included in the ROI calculation. Instead, it is purely based on the box office performance of Disney’s Star Wars trilogy, its two spinoff movies, merchandise, DVD, and Blu-Ray sales.

As revealed, the methodology is questionable as Disney based the ROI on the revenue generated by the movies, merchandise, DVDs, and Blu-rays rather than the profit they made as it should have done. Using the revenue rather than the profit artificially inflates the result as it doesn’t factor in the costs that Disney had to pay out.”

In other words, while there is plenty of cash coming in for Disney via Star Wars (largely through attractions like Galaxy’s Edge,  assorted merchandise, but definitely not Galactic Starcruiser), its actual film productions are not making money.

Star Wars: Galactic Starcruiser concept art
Credit: Disney

Related: ‘Star Wars’ Now Banned For Children

This likely explains why Lucasfilm chief Kathleen Kennedy has not released a new Star Wars movie since 2019 and why projects like Ahsoka, The Book of Boba Fett, and Obi-Wan Kenobi have all been given priority over a feature. It’s only now that the Dave Filoni-led Disney+ shows are losing steam that Daisy Ridley has been brought back in for the upcoming New Jedi Order.

Maybe this time around, Lucasfilm will watch the Star Wars movie budgets. After all, Walt Disney World and Grogu plushies can’t keep the franchise afloat forever.

Why is Disney losing so much money over Star Wars? Give us your theories in the comments below!

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