As fans worldwide gather to wave their plastic light sabers in the air, you really have to marvel at the marketing efficacy of the force known as Star Wars. Or to be more accurate – the Walt Disney company. The latest edition of the film franchise took in about $517 million in global ticket sales during the first few days of opening week, smashing box office records. The New York Times called it ‘an astounding display of cultural and commercial domination on a global scale.’
There’s no doubt the Stars Wars series has its own built-in mass appeal – one that was built over decades. But Disney used this as the foundation to build something significantly more profitable. They were able to put the resources of their own vast empire to work to ensure mega-success at the box office. Star Wars: The Force Awakens was in full promotional mode for weeks via Disney theme parks, television networks, video games, cruise ships and consumer products.
Disney also mastered the art of social media marketing for the new film, not just enabling fans but powerful business partners as well. Verizon’s #TheoryWars campaign promoted the film and gave Twitter users the chance to win free tickets. Google’s #ChooseYourSide campaign appeared as customized themes on numerous Google apps.
Recently, CNBC announced that Disney is on course to generate over $2 billion in box office sales worldwide. Keep in mind – that’s just box office sales and doesn’t include merchandising or streaming revenue in years to come. (Only two other films have broken the $2B level to date – Avatar and Titanic.)
Disney purchased LucasFilm in 2012 for $4.05 billion. By the time every consumer purchase has been made, they’re going to make most of that back on just the first release in their continuation of the series. The Star Wars marketing force is indeed strong, and will inspire attempts at many other blockbuster movie events in the years to come.