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Yes, Disney will keep milking the Star Wars cow

Posted April 13

A great disturbance in the Force was felt last week, as if millions of voices suddenly cried out in joy when the teaser trailer for "Rogue One: A Star Wars Story" was released.

Here's the trailer if you haven't seen it. If you have seen it, you know you want to watch it again.

Around this time last year, Disney's stock jumped after the release of the first "The Force Awakens" trailer. Following the "Rogue One" trailer on Thursday, however, Disney saw no such gain. It's stock price actually dropped, opening the day at $97.06 and closing at $96.17.

Disney's stock has actually been in decline for some time since it peaked in November, seeing another sharp drop Monday when COO Tom Staggs unexpectedly announced he would be stepping down.

"The Force Awakens" sets a high threshold for "Rogue One" to beat, as TFA achieved third place in all-time worldwide box office earnings with over $2 billion in revenues — already half the price Disney paid to purchase Lucasfilm.

"Rogue One" is unlikely to reach that level at the box office for a couple of reasons:

1) The movie lacks the recognizable actors, characters and overall nostalgia factor of TFA, reports Investor's Business Daily.

2) A brewing concern of "too much" Star Wars. "Rogue One" isn't a main-series or "saga" movie. Lucasfilm calls it an "anthology" movie, thus the subtitle "a Star Wars story." But Lucasfilm has other anthology movies in the works, including origin stories for characters Han Solo and Boba Fett.

Between the "sagas" and the "anthologies," it's likely that a new Star Wars film will be released every year for the next five years — maybe more. As Wired claims, it's very possible that "you won't live to see the final Star Wars movie."

But similar complaints about an oversaturation of superhero movies haven't hurt business for that genre. They continue to be some of the top-grossing movies in the world.

March's highly anticipated "Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice," for example, has already grossed $683 million worldwide — this despite having terrible reviews, including only 29 percent critical approval on Rotten Tomatoes and a scathing review in the New York Times that said, "it is about as diverting as having a porcelain sink broken over your head."

But critical acclaim doesn't seem to be the goal here. Warner Brothers, which owns the rights to DC characters, has another 11 superhero movies already in the works. And Disney has 11 Marvel movies slated.

The Star Wars franchise is likely to adopt a similar model, exploring many different facets of the Star Wars universe. And while "Rogue One" may never achieve the astronomical success of "The Force Awakens," it will still generate a profit.

Not necessarily at the box office, however.

According to Forbes, Disney makes more money in merchandising than in ticket sales, generating an estimated $5 billion this year. Star Wars branded products are ubiquitous, from toys and apparel to cosmetics (a line of Covergirl mascara that appears to vary little from the original product aside from the Star Wars packaging).

As long as spin-off films like "Rogue One" keep the hype machine moving and people buying products, Disney is unlikely to quit milking the Star Wars cow (Bantha?) any time soon.

sturner@deseretnews.com

twitter: @zamturner

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