A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away, there was the little sci-fi movie that could – Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope. At the time, though, it was just known as Star Wars, and it created a franchise unlike anything seen before.
In 2005, Forbes magazine estimated that the Star Wars franchise, from the time it began in the late seventies, had generated more than twenty billion dollars in revenue, and with six big screen success stories, at least three spin-off films, five licensed television shows, and thousands of books, comic books, and toys, it's no surprise. What might be a surprise, though, is that by the time Star Wars creator George Lucas finished the first film, he was over-budget, out of time, and convinced the film would be a flop. Early screenings of the film did little to improve Lucas' ideas that the film would be any kind of success, but when it was finally released in the summer of 1977, the film earned nearly seven million dollars in its first weekend. It is considered to be the second highest profitable film of all time.
More than Great Films
Ask any Star Wars fan, though, and they'll tell you it's not just about the movies, it's also about the associated merchandise. The initial film was predicted to be a flop, so no merchandise was created to debut with the film's release. The toy company, Kenner, though had purchased the license to sell associate products By Christmas of 1977, demand was so high, Kenner created an "Early Bird Special" kit. The kit held a certificate fans could send in for four 3 ¾ inch figures as soon as they became available. On Christmas morning, thousands of kids got empty cardboard envelopes that held only a display stand, a Star Wars club card, a few stickers, and a certificate they could put their name and address on, mail in, and wait for several months for the first Star Wars toys ever produced to arrive. Months later, lots of kids did get Luke Skywalker, Princess Leia, R2-D2, and Chewbacca in the mail, and years later, these four figures are considered to be some of the most valuable action figures on the collectors' market today.
Explosive Industry Growth
As you can probably imagine, the Star Wars toy and merchandise franchise has grown considerably since the Christmas of 1977. Once Kenner geared up the production machine, it slowed for no one. From additional action figures to vehicles, playsets, and lightsabers, the vintage Star Wars toy market had everything. As Episodes V and VI were released, more toys hit the market. T-shirts, bed sheets, toothbrushes, combs, and watches were all part of the marketing campaign as well.
After the release of Return of the Jedi, though, the Star Wars marketing machine slowed considerably. People seemed to thing the Star Wars market was nearing the end. However, in the late 1990s, a new line of Star Wars action figures was released. Dubbed "The Power of the Force" line, these green carded figures created a whole new generation of collectors, and with the release of the special edition of the original trilogy, and the subsequent release of Star Wars Episode I, the marketing machine kicked back into high gear. From bubble bath to sandals, the Star Wars name can be found on almost anything these days, and with talk of additional television series, DVDs, and even other films, it's hard to tell when the franchise will ever slow down.
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