Time for another Star Wars movie, it is. (Engage your own Yoda voice here.) Ten years after Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith, the epic space opera franchise returns with the first movie in the next trilogy. Star Wars Episode VII: The Force Awakens debuts in theaters December 18th. The Walt Disney Company, which bought the Star Wars franchise in 2012 for $4.05 billion, will be eagerly awaiting the box office returns, just as much as fans are awaiting the return of Han Solo and the rest of the Star Wars universe.
The Force will be propelling Star Wars fans to theaters and toy stores for another furious round of spending — or so some companies hope. Here are eight companies that may well see a boost from the awakening force.
- Walt Disney (NYSE: DIS) – Clearly Disney has the most to gain from the Star Wars mania, and has multiple outlets to maximize its potential. Their theme parks, cruises, and other media outlets offer plenty of free marketing opportunities (perhaps Darth Vader hosting ESPN's SportsCenter?). It is hard to see how Star Wars cannot benefit Disney stock, but keep in mind that their massive size makes the Star Wars effect less relevant to the overall stock price.
- Mattel (NASDAQ: MAT) – Mattel has not been doing well and could use the boost of Star Wars related vehicles, since their stock price has dropped by 45% over the last two years. They are producing hybrid materials, such as Star Wars-related Hot Wheels cars, as well as direct Star Wars merchandise.
- Electronic Arts (NASDAQ: EA) – An exclusive ten-year deal to make Star Wars games could propel EA to new heights. The new Star Wars Battlefront shooting game features plenty of new worlds and experiences within the Star Wars universe. EA is targeting ten million copies of the game on all platforms and will have plenty of fodder for follow-up games over time with two subsequent movies.
- IMAX (NYSE: IMAX) – If any genre of movie is perfect for IMAX, it is Star Wars. Their distribution agreement with Disney means that fans will be able to enjoy the Star Wars experience on 72-foot screens.
- Hasbro (NASDAQ: HAS) – Hasbro has the license for many toys, games, and action figures featuring the Star Wars brand. Hasbro stock has already been doing quite well, up over 45% for the year even without the Star Wars materials — or perhaps in anticipation of them.
- WalMart (NYSE: WMT) – Didn't we all know that the Behemoth of Bentonville would be included? They are the nation's top retailer, and the combination of Christmas and new Star Wars toys makes it likely that WalMart will do quite well over the holidays. The question is: how long will the bump last?
- AMC Entertainment (NASDAQ: AMC) – AMC holds many of the highest-grossing theaters in America, and is hosting Star Wars movie marathons prior to the release of Star Wars Episode VII: The Force Awakens. That means patrons arriving at 1 am and enjoying all six prior movies before the 7 pm showing of episode VII. Hope the concession stand carries Red Bull.
- JAKKS Pacific (NASDAQ: JAKK) – Want a smaller company to invest in? JAKKS Pacific has a slice of the Star Wars figurine market, specifically within 18 to 31 inches in height. More Star Wars movies will allow JAKKS another chance to build their reputation and increase their income.
With a little homework on the companies above, you may be able to enjoy not only the return of Star Wars but also the returns on your Star Wars-related investments. As one of the great Jedi Masters might say: "Invest wisely, you should. Lots of money, you make."