| LOS ANGELES
LOS ANGELES Feb 16 Walt Disney Co and
major retailers will release the galaxy's newest "Star Wars"
toys at a Sept. 1 midnight event ahead of the holiday debut of
the next film in the saga, "The Last Jedi," company executives
The marketing push called "Force Friday II" is a sequel to
an event Disney used to build buzz for merchandise tied to the
2015 movie "The Force Awakens."
Star Wars products were a big contributor to the financial
success of the series reboot. BB-8 droids, lightsabers and other
playthings made "Star Wars" the U.S. toy industry's top-selling
property for 2015 and 2016, with $1.5 billion in sales over the
two years, research firm NPD said.
Hasbro Inc cited "Star Wars" sales when it reported
its biggest quarterly revenue rise in nearly five years for the
December 2015 quarter. Mattel Inc also posted a surprise
rise in sales for the same period with help from "Star
Wars"-based Hot Wheels toys. And at Disney, licensing income
from "Force Awakens" merchandise drove record quarterly
operating income in the consumer products unit.
Force Friday II will begin just after midnight on Sept 1.
Lego, Hasbro and others will release the first toys, apparel,
books and other products tied to "The Last Jedi," both online
and in stores at retailers including Wal-Mart Stores Inc
, Target, Toys R Us, Kohl's, Amazon.com Inc
and Disney Stores.
Disney will incorporate new technology to its "Last Jedi"
products like it did with the popular BB-8 droid, said James
Pitaro, chairman of Disney Consumer Products and Interactive
Media. New products will feature returning characters such as
Rey and Finn, plus new ones, and will span a broad range of
categories for male and female fans, he said.
"One of our top priorities is to expand the audience,"
"The Last Jedi," the eighth installment in the "Star Wars"
movie saga that began in 1977, debuts in theaters Dec. 15. Toys
typically hit shelves closer to a movie's release, around four
to six weeks in advance.
At the 2015 Force Friday, fans dressed as Stormtroopers and
Jedi waited in line for hours ahead of the midnight store
"There was a certain mania that took over," said Marty
Brochstein, a senior vice president at the International
Licensing Industry Merchandisers' Association. The excitement
around "Star Wars" in 2015 was unique because it had been so
long since the last film, Brochstein said.
"It would be unfair to expect the same kind of volume
generated this time around by consumer products," he said,
adding it was too early to assess demand.
Pitaro said Disney continues to see "very, very healthy
sales" of "Star Wars" merchandise. "We have a lot of confidence
we will continue in that direction," he said.
Disney bought "Star Wars" producer Lucasfilm in 2012 for $4
billion and reintroduced the franchise with "Force Awakens."
That movie became the third-highest grossing ever, selling $2
billion worth of tickets worldwide. Disney also released "Star
Wars" spinoff "Rogue One" in 2016.
(Reporting by Lisa Richwine,; Editing by Peter Henderson & Shri