Every time anyone leveled legitimate criticism at the majority of Disney’s efforts with Star Wars to date, somebody would always come out of the woodwork with a financial argument, as if that somehow made the creative failure of the franchise excusable.

“…but The Force Awakens made over $2 billion at the box office! ‘Top Critics’ really rate The Last Jedi, so what do you know?”

One particularly amusing, and thin-skinned, denizen of a now failed and dead movie website used to ban people whenever he ran out of arguments and was presented with facts.

Well, now a bombshell in-depth feature report from Forbes has stuck a knife in that particular argument as well. Back in your caves, Lucasfilm defenders.

Detailed analysis of the recently filed financial statements by Disney laid bare that the box office profits generated by Star Wars movies to date have fallen $2.8 billion short of covering the purchase price.

Disney bought Lucasfilm for $4 billion in 2012, and while The Force Awakens made $2.1 billion, it cost an astronomical amount to produce.

The Last Jedi was roundly rejected by fans, the lack of repeat viewings made that film take in $800 million less. By the time the third instalment, The Rise Of Skywalker, limped into theaters with all enthusiasm drained, the box office had collapsed to less than half of the first movie, although budgets remained staggeringly high.

Six Primetime Emmy Award nominations, forty-two Primetime Creative Arts Emmy nominations, and fifteen wins cannot make The Mandalorian generate the kind of revenue from streaming that is needed to plug the gap.


Rogue One was a great success, but Solo flopped, and Star Wars has been absent from theaters since the sequel trilogy wrapped.

Last month, Disney released a 67-page presentation aimed at holding off an activist shareholder revolt. The thrust of the message was how successful Iger’s past acquisitions had been for Disney.

The presentation alluded to Disney’s Star Wars trilogy making a 2.9x return on the purchase of Lucasfilm.

It looks like a good news story. However, thanks to the big brains at Forbes, deeper financial analysis shows this to be a paper-thin illusion.

The fine print makes it clear that the purchase price of Lucasfilm isn’t even included in the return on investment (ROI) calculation, and the numbers shown are for revenue. So pure box office numbers and merch sales etc. Not profit.

As Forbes says, this methodology is questionable as this is not a true picture of the return on investment.


But not profitable


Looking deeper into the reams of company filings, Forbes points out that the cost of making Disney’s five Star Wars movies to date hit a total of $2.1 billion, peaking at $567.3 million on The Force Awakens. Yes. Stop, breathe, and look at that number again. Absolutely mind-blowing isn’t it?

A lot of data is available for these movies as they were shot in the UK to take advantage of generous tax breaks offered by the UK government. In order to get these tax breaks and comply with UK law, standard Hollywood Accounting opaqueness cannot be used. A more detailed cost breakdown is required. It is this data that has seemingly driven a coach and horses through some of Disney’s claims.

Theater chains typically get around half of the takings with the remainder going to the studios. Deducting the $475.1 million net cost of The Force Awakens from Disney’s share of the box office leaves a blockbuster profit of $559.6 million. This is 1.2 times its net costs giving Disney a 1.2 times return on its investment.

Those same big brains at Forbes have included a handy movie-by-movie breakdown for the entire enterprise.


Credit: Forbes


While this doesn’t include Star Wars merchandise and home sales, it also doesn’t include the galactic marketing costs.

By the time the $134.2 million loss for Indiana Jones And The Dial Of Destiny is added in, and the $100 million cost of the now-canceled Willow, the reality of the situation seems a great deal bleaker than that presented by Disney’s sleight of hand a couple of weeks ago.


*Special thanks to Outposter Chief Of Security for bringing this report to our attention.

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