‘Last Jedi’ will play a big role as Disney takes on Netflix

The value of “Stars Wars” to Disney goes well beyond the box office. Aside from spawning new video games, toys and theme-park attractions, the space-opera franchise will play a pivotal role in Disney’s efforts to build an online destination that can rival Netflix.

LOS ANGELES — Few would dare underestimate the cultural and commercial power of “Star Wars.” The latest movie in the Skywalker saga, “Star Wars: The Last Jedi,” is sure to have one of the biggest opening weekends of the year, with an estimated $425 million in its global premiere.

That’s another good omen for Walt Disney Co., which has staked a big piece of its future on the enduring appeal of the decades-old series, with an expanding universe of “Star Wars” content coming to big and small screens in the next few years.

“Stars Wars’” value to the Burbank entertainment giant goes well beyond the box office. Aside from spawning new video games, toys and theme-park attractions, the space-opera franchise will play a pivotal role in Disney’s efforts to build an online destination that can rival Netflix.

A live-action “Star Wars” TV show will be a main attraction of the Disney-branded streaming service set to launch in 2019.

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“The fact is that Disney is the only company out there that can go toe to toe with Netflix, and ‘Star Wars’ is a huge part of that,” said Jeff Bock, a box-office analyst with Exhibitor Relations.

Essential to Disney’s streaming strategy is having the programming that will attract consumers. Netflix has courted millions of subscribers worldwide with shows such as “House of Cards,” “Stranger Things” and “The Crown.” The Los Gatos, California, streaming giant said it will release 80 original films next year and spend $8 billion on content, raising the competitive stakes for traditional studios.

Securing content for Disney’s streaming…

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