Star Wars Hyper Drive on Force Friday

Star Wars

Anyone not aware that a new Star Wars movie is coming will be soon enough as the movie’s merchandizing going into hyper drive on Sept. 4, which has been dubbed as “Force Friday.” The franchise’s new flick, Star Wars: The Force Awakens, will not hit theaters until Dec. 18. But Lucasfilm—and its merchandising-expert parent company, the Walt Disney Co.— are busy generating buzz and product sales now.

Starting at midnight tonight (or technically one minute after), the merchandizing bonanza will be coming to a galaxy, Disney Store, Target, Walmart, or nearly every major retailer (and minor) nearby. The demand – or hype – started with an 18-hour online unboxing event today to whet buyers’ shopping appetites.

The dollars, yen, Euros and other money involved are unprecedented. By some estimates, Star Wars: The Force Awakens is expected to earn more than $2 billion in ticket sales worldwide. That is nothing compared to the merchandizing sales anticipated, which are projected to earn more than $5 billion in the next year (and keep earning for some time afterwards).

Ever eager to generate a heft share of the demand (or tax make sure their sale “force awakens”), Walmart has a countdown clock on their Web site to let the buying begin. Both Target and Walmart will even have many of their stores open at 12:01 Friday a.m.

While some are promoting “a new generation of merchandise,” as Walmart phrased it, expect a solid mix of merchandise featuring old favorite characters mixed in with the new ones like Rey, Finn and Poe Dameron as well as a BB-8 droid. Besides the usual toys (for humans and dogs), video games, children’s bedding and T-shirts, the companies will be selling jewelry and watches, home décor, electronics, and even auto décor. With Halloween coming, there will also be an invasion of costumes for all sizes (the Ewok costumes for little kids and little dogs are cute!)

When Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope, the first movie in the Star Wars saga to be released, came out in 1977, there was nothing like the product mania that accompanies the release of big films today. In fact, the first Star Wars toys were issued several months after the public got to know Luke, Leia and Han Solo. But after multiple trilogies, releases of VHS tapes and DVDs, and almost 40 years of toys, clothing and paraphernalia sold to multiple generations of Jedi (or Darth Vader) wannabees, the assumption is that the new movie and its merchandise will appeal to a massive worldwide audience. American movie product sales in just China, which was not in the commercialized movie mainstream for previous releases, should be significant.

Disney also undoubtedly learned lessons (and gained inspiration) from the still hot Frozen phenomenon. The movie came out nearly two years ago and the images of Anna, Elsa and Co. are still selling in toy stores, garments, lunchboxes and even cereal boxes. . One Elsa doll alone reportedly rang up sales of $26 million in the U.S. last year. But, the merchandising mechanism for Frozen notoriously was slow in getting started and Disney was caught short of items for Christmas 2013. Is the Star Wars onslaught going into hyper drive on “Force Friday.” three months before Christmas, based on that experience?

Written and edited by Dyanne Weiss

Forbes: The hype awakens: Disney launches new Star Wars toys
BBC: Star Wars’ plans to be a billion dollar movie with the help of toy sales
New York Times: BB-8 Droid Offers Hint of Coming Crush of ‘Star Wars’ Toys

Force Friday promotional art courtesy of Lucasfilms/Disney.

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