Walt Disney Co. CFO Jay Rasulo Talks STAR WARS Franchise, STAR WARS: EPISODE VII, Spin-Off Origin Stories and Releasing One Film a Year Starting in 2015

     September 12, 2013

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Hollywood’s heavy hitters are duking it out for investor dollars today at a media conference.  We just heard what Warner Bros. CEO Kevin Tsujihara had to say about their DC and Harry Potter franchise plans, so let’s take a look at what Walt Disney Co. has in store for Star Wars.  CFO Jay Rasulo paid special attention to just how lucrative a property Star Wars continues to be, which is the driving force behind the company’s decision to purchase the rights late last year.  Moving forward, Rasulo says to expect one new Star Wars trilogy film or spin-off “origin story film” each year, starting in 2015.  For more, hit the jump.

Variety reports star-wars-retro-adthat it was all about Star Wars during Rasulo’s talk.  Disney disappointed fans earlier in the year when attendees to the D23 Expo left empty-handed (as far as Star Wars news was concerned), but there were nuggets of news thrown around during the investors conference.  Rasulo and Disney aren’t worried about their $4 billion purchase of the property, saying, “the market is extremely hot for everything ‘Star Wars.’”  As far as what they have planned on a macroscopic level, Rasulo used a little bit of business talk to say:

“This is not a new franchise for kids … The sky’s the limit … There’s incredible flexibility. It’s an unbelievable palette to create from.”

In other words, look for four-quadrant product placement for Star Wars across the board beyond films, TV shows and video games to other consumer products.  When can we expect that?

“We will lay the groundwork for that … and when the film comes out in 2015, we’ll be ready to blow it out,” saying that the overall strategy is “to put out a great film” first.

Here’s another interesting bit in which Rasulo calls the spin-off movies “origin” stories, reported in Variety’s words as follows:

“One Star Wars trilogy film or “origin story film” would also appear on the release schedule each year, starting with the seventh installment in the “Star Wars” saga that J.J. Abrams will direct and Disney releases in 2015.”

Previously, it was only rumored that these spin-off films would be origin stories, such as ones featuring Yoda, Boba Fett and Han Solo.  Still no details on that front, but it’s good news for fans that Disney will be releasing a Star Wars movie in some capacity every year.

star-wars-han-solo-harrison-fordAnd here’s a fun financial fact: Disney will be capping budgets on its potential blockbusters.

“The exec cautioned that after the disappointing box office performance of “The Lone Ranger” this summer, “there needs to be a cap on (budgets of) tentpole franchise movies.” “Going forward, we will see a cap on spending on those movies,” he said.”

Perhaps the first casualty of this decision was Pirates of the Caribbean 5 / Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales, which was recently delayed from its planned summer 2015 with no new release date in sight.  Some new plot details on the new installment did come out, however, along with news that the aim is to keep the budget below $200 million.

Rasulo finished by saying that Disney had no plans to make any other high-profile acquisitions, like it’s done with Pixar and Lucasfilm, in the near future, opting instead to buy back its stock.  Though they’ve got plenty to work with at the moment, they also said that they’re poised to strike if the right deal comes along.

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