Lucasfilm Ltd. LLC
Lucasfilm Ltd.
Formerly
  • Lucasfilm (1971–1977)
  • Lucasfilm Ltd. (1977–2012)
Company typeSubsidiary
Industry
  • Film
  • television
Founded1971; 53 years ago (1971), in San Rafael, California, U.S.
FounderGeorge Lucas
HeadquartersLetterman Digital Arts Center, ,
U.S.
Number of locations
6
Area served
Worldwide
Key people
Brands
Number of employees
2,000 (2015)[2]
ParentThe Walt Disney Studios (2012–present)
Divisions
Websitewww.lucasfilm.com Edit this at Wikidata

Lucasfilm Ltd. LLC is an American film and television production company founded by filmmaker George Lucas in 1971 in San Rafael, California, though most of the company's operations were moved to San Francisco in 2005.[3] It has been a subsidiary of The Walt Disney Studios since 2012 and is best known for creating and producing the Star Wars and Indiana Jones franchises, as well as its leadership in developing special effects, sound, and computer animation for films.

The company's films Star Wars: Episode I – The Phantom Menace (1999), Star Wars: The Force Awakens (2015), Rogue One: A Star Wars Story (2016), Star Wars: The Last Jedi (2017), and Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker (2019) are all among the 50 highest-grossing films of all time, with The Force Awakens becoming the highest-grossing film in the United States and Canada. On October 30, 2012, Disney acquired Lucasfilm for $4.05 billion in the form of cash and $1.855 billion in stock.[4][5][6][7]

History

Independent era (1971–2012)

Lucasfilm was founded by filmmaker George Lucas in 1971 in San Rafael, California,[8] and was incorporated as Lucasfilm Ltd. on September 12, 1977.[9] In the mid-1970s, the company's offices were located on the Universal Studios Lot.[10] Lucas founded the Star Wars Corporation, Inc. as a subsidiary to control various legal and financial aspects of Star Wars (1977),[11] including copyright, and sequel and merchandising rights. It also produced the 1978 Star Wars Holiday Special for 20th Century Fox Television.[12] That year, Lucas hired Los Angeles-based real-estate specialist Charles Weber to manage the company, telling him that he could keep the job as long as he made money.[13] Lucas wanted the focus of the company to be making independent films, but the company gradually became enlarged from five employees to almost 100, increasing in middle management and running up costs. In 1980, after Weber asked Lucas for fifty million dollars to invest in other companies and suggested that they sell Skywalker Ranch to do so, Lucas fired Weber and had to let half of the Los Angeles staff go.[13] By the same year, the corporate subsidiary had been discontinued and its business was absorbed into the various divisions of Lucasfilm.

Between 1981 and 1989, three Indiana Jones films, stories by Lucas and directed by Steven Spielberg, were released. While Return of the Jedi (1983) was in production, Lucas decided not to pursue further Star Wars films.[14] Unhappy with the cinema presentation of Return of the Jedi, he created the company THX, which was unveiled on May 20, 1983.[15] Lucasfilm produced the John Korty-directed animated film Twice Upon a Time (1983). 1985 saw the release of Paul Schrader's Mishima: A Life in Four Chapters. The next year, Jim Henson's Labyrinth and an adaptation of Marvel Comics' Howard the Duck were released. Ron Howard directed the fantasy film Willow in 1988 (story by Lucas); the same year the children's animated film The Land Before Time was released. From 1992 to 1993, The Young Indiana Jones Chronicles (created by Lucas) television series was produced. In 1992, after viewing an early computer-generated imagery test created by Industrial Light & Magic (ILM) for Jurassic Park, Lucas announced his intentions to produce a Star Wars Prequel Trilogy.[16] In 1994, the long-delayed Radioland Murders (story by Lucas) was released. In 1995, Lucas began production on the prequel trilogy. The trilogy took 10 years to make, ending with the release of the third prequel Star Wars: Episode III – Revenge of the Sith in 2005. In addition to the prequels, Lucas released the Special Editions for the Star Wars Original Trilogy in 1997, 2004 and 2011, for VHS, DVD and Blu-ray.

In 1987, the company, which at that time, was expanding from three to five films a year on its own, decided to increase making its Northern California production facilities available to other filmmakers.[17] In 1989, Lucasfilm launched a new subsidiary Lucasfilm Entertainment Group (later LucasArts Entertainment Company) to consolidate all four units, which are Industrial Light & Magic, Lucasfilm Commercial Productions, Lucasfilm Games, and Sprocket Systems.[18]

In 2005, Lucasfilm opened a new studio in Singapore.[19] That same year, Lucasfilm Animation commenced production of a 3D animated Star Wars television series called Star Wars: The Clone Wars, with key production team members including executive producer Catherine Winder, supervising director Dave Filoni, Head of Lucasfilm Animation Singapore Chris Kubsch, and Henry Gilroy.[20] Primary production took place at Lucasfilm Animation's Singapore studio.[21] Airing on Cartoon Network between 2008 and 2013,[22] The Clone Wars was well received by fans and was nominated for several film awards including the Daytime Emmy Awards and the Annie Awards.[23][24]

In January 2012, Lucas announced his retirement from producing large-scale blockbuster films and instead re-focusing his career on smaller, independently budgeted features.[25][26] In June 2012, it was announced that Kathleen Kennedy, a long-term collaborator with Steven Spielberg and a producer of the Indiana Jones films, had been appointed as co-chair of Lucasfilm Ltd. It was reported that Kennedy would work alongside Lucas, who would remain chief executive and serve as co-chairman for at least one year, after which she would succeed him as the company's chairperson, which she did in June 2013.[27]

On July 8, 2012, Lucasfilm's marketing, online, and licensing units moved into the new Letterman Digital Arts Center located in the Presidio in San Francisco. It shares the complex with Industrial Light & Magic. Lucasfilm had planned an expansion at Skywalker Ranch in Marin County, California, but shelved the plan in 2012 due to opposition from neighbors. However, it still plans to expand elsewhere.[28] Skywalker Sound remains the only Lucasfilm division based at Skywalker Ranch.[29]

On September 5, 2012, Micheline Chau, who served as president and COO of Lucasfilm for two decades, announced that she was retiring. With her departure, senior executives for each of the Lucasfilm divisions would report directly to Kathleen Kennedy. Chau was credited with keeping the Lucasfilm and Star Wars brands strong, especially through animation spin-offs and licensing initiatives.[30]

Subsidiary of The Walt Disney Studios (2012–present)

Acquisition process

Discussions relating to the possibility of The Walt Disney Company signing a distribution deal with Lucasfilm officially began in May 2011, after a meeting that George Lucas had with the then Disney CEO Bob Iger during the inauguration of the Star Tours – The Adventures Continue attraction.[31] Lucas told Iger he was considering retirement and planned to sell the company, as well as the Star Wars and Indiana Jones franchises.[32] On October 30, 2012, Disney announced a deal to acquire Lucasfilm for $4.05 billion,[33] with approximately half in cash and half in shares of Disney stock.[4] Lucasfilm had previously collaborated with the company's Walt Disney Imagineering division to create theme park attractions centered on Star Wars and Indiana Jones for various Walt Disney Parks and Resorts worldwide.[34]

Kathleen Kennedy, co-chairwoman of Lucasfilm, became president of Lucasfilm, reporting to The Walt Disney Studios Chairman Alan Horn. Additionally, she serves as the brand manager for Star Wars, working directly with Disney's global lines of business to build, further integrate, and maximize the value of this global franchise. Kennedy serves as producer on new Star Wars feature films, with George Lucas originally announced as serving as a creative consultant.[35] The company also announced the future release of new Star Wars films, starting with Episode VII: The Force Awakens in 2015.[34]

Under the deal, Disney acquired ownership of Star Wars, Indiana Jones, and Lucasfilm's operating businesses in live-action film production, consumer products, video games, animation, visual effects, and audio post-production.[36] Disney also acquired Lucasfilm's portfolio of entertainment technologies. The intent was for Lucasfilm employees to remain in their current locations.[37] Star Wars merchandising would begin under Disney in the fiscal year 2014.[38] Starting with Star Wars Rebels, certain products will be co-branded with the Disney name,[39][40] akin to what Disney has done with Pixar.[41] On December 4, 2012, the Disney-Lucasfilm merger was approved by the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), allowing the acquisition to be finalized without dealing with antitrust problems.[42] On December 18, 2012, Lucasfilm Ltd. converted from a corporation to a limited liability company (LLC), changing its name to Lucasfilm Ltd. LLC in the process.[43] On December 21, 2012, Disney completed the acquisition and Lucasfilm became a wholly owned subsidiary of Disney.[6][7]

At the time of Disney's acquisition of Lucasfilm, 20th Century Fox, the original distributor of the first six Star Wars films, were to retain the physical and theatrical distribution rights to both the prequel trilogy and Episodes V and VI of the original trilogy until May 2020, along with full distribution rights for the original 1977 film in perpetuity.[44] Lucasfilm retained the television and digital distribution rights to Star Wars Episodes I through VI with exception to Episode IV.[45] On March 20, 2019, Disney officially acquired 20th Century Fox after acquiring its owner, 21st Century Fox, thus consolidating all the distribution and ownership rights to all the films under its umbrella.[7] In December 2013, Walt Disney Studios purchased the distribution and marketing rights to future Indiana Jones films from Paramount Pictures, although the latter studio would retain the distribution rights to the first four films and would receive "financial participation" from any additional films.[46][47] This would make the fifth installment, Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny, become the first film in the franchise and Lucasfilm's first film overall to be co-produced by Walt Disney Pictures.[48]

Kathleen Kennedy era, 2012–present

In early 2013, Disney CEO Bob Iger disclosed Lucasfilm's plans to release standalone Star Wars films alongside the Sequel Trilogy over a six-year period.[49] This strategy aimed to expand the Star Wars universe beyond the main saga. The first of these standalone films, Rogue One, premiered in 2016, followed by Solo: A Star Wars Story in 2018.[50][51]

On May 6, 2013, LucasArts, the video game development division of Lucasfilm, underwent closure, resulting in layoffs for most of its staff.[52] Despite this, LucasArts maintained a small team to handle video game licensing. Disney subsequently entered an exclusive agreement with Electronic Arts (EA) to produce Star Wars games for the core gaming market for a decade. LucasArts retained licensing rights, while Disney Interactive Studios focused on casual gaming.[53][54]

In 2014, Dark Horse Comics lost its license for Star Wars comics to Marvel Comics, another Disney subsidiary.[55] The Star Wars Expanded Universe content was rebranded as 'Legends,' with only selected works, including episodic films and The Clone Wars, deemed canon. Additionally, a new line of canon Star Wars books began publication under the Lucasfilm story group.[56]

Lucasfilm continued its expansion globally, opening its regional headquarters in Singapore in 2014.[19] This facility housed staff from Lucasfilm, The Walt Disney Company Southeast Asia, and ESPN Asia Pacific.[19] Meanwhile, between 2015 and 2018, Lucasfilm released several cinematic films, including critical and commercial successes like Episode VII: The Force Awakens and Rogue One, alongside the less successful Solo.[57][50][51]

After the mixed performance of Solo at the box office, Disney CEO Bob Iger confirmed a slow down in release of new Star Wars films.[58] Lucasfilm moved its focus on developing content for Disney+ by launching several programs including the successful series The Mandalorian series on Disney+.[59]

Company structure

Former divisions

Former subsidiaries of Lucasfilm are:

Name Description Current Status Details
Pixar Animation Studios Computer animation studio that was sold to Steve Jobs in 1986. Active It became a subsidiary of The Walt Disney Company in 2006, six years prior to Disney's acquisition of Lucasfilm in December 2012.
THX Theater sound system (spun off from Lucasfilm in 2002)[66] Active Creative Technology owned 60% of THX,[67] and then sold to Razer Inc. in 2016.
Kerner Optical Practical effects division (model shop) and 3-D development team (spun off from Industrial Light & Magic in 2006) Closed Subsequently, went bankrupt in 2011[68]
Lucas Learning A spinoff of LucasArts for the development of educational software. Closed In 2001, Lucas Learning decided to leave the market and shut down this division.[69]
Lucas Online In house web development company that built and maintained the websites of the other Lucasfilm Ltd. companies and properties. Closed

Filmography

Main article: List of Lucasfilm productions

Franchises

Year Title Films TV Seasons
1973–1979 American Graffiti 2 0
1977–present Star Wars 12 28
1981–present Indiana Jones 5 3
1988–2022 Willow 1 1

Highest-grossing films

Highest-grossing films in North America
Rank Title Year Domestic gross
1 Star Wars: The Force Awakens 2015 $936,662,225
2 Star Wars: The Last Jedi 2017 $620,181,382
3 Rogue One 2016 $533,539,991
4 Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker 2019 $515,202,542
5 Star Wars: Episode I – The Phantom Menace 1999 $483,267,871
6 Star Wars 1977 $460,998,507
7 Star Wars: Episode III – Revenge of the Sith 2005 $380,270,577
8 Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull 2008 $317,101,119
9 Return of the Jedi 1983 $316,566,101
10 Star Wars: Episode II – Attack of the Clones 2002 $310,676,740
11 The Empire Strikes Back 1980 $292,753,960
12 Raiders of the Lost Ark 1981 $248,159,971
13 Solo: A Star Wars Story 2018 $213,767,512
14 Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade 1989 $197,171,806
15 Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom 1984 $179,870,271
16 Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny 2023 $174,480,468
17 American Graffiti 1973 $115,000,000
Highest-grossing films worldwide
Rank Title Year Worldwide gross
1 Star Wars: The Force Awakens 2015 $2,071,310,218
2 Star Wars: The Last Jedi 2017 $1,334,407,706
3 Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker 2019 $1,077,022,372
4 Rogue One 2016 $1,055,083,596
5 Star Wars: Episode I – The Phantom Menace 1999 $1,027,083,462
6 Star Wars: Episode III – Revenge of the Sith 2005 $868,390,560
7 Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull 2008 $786,635,413
8 Star Wars 1977 $775,398,507
9 Star Wars: Episode II – Attack of the Clones 2002 $656,695,615
10 The Empire Strikes Back 1980 $549,001,086
11 Return of the Jedi 1983 $482,365,284
12 Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade 1989 $474,171,806
13 Solo: A Star Wars Story 2018 $393,151,347
14 Raiders of the Lost Ark 1981 $389,925,971
15 Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny 2023 $383,963,057
16 Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom 1984 $333,107,271
17 American Graffiti 1973 $140,557,835

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