Walt Disney is to buy George Lucas's world-renowned Lucasfilm, including his legendary Star Wars franchise, for $US4 billion, and has announced plans for more films in the legendary sci-fi series.
Star Wars 7 is set for release in 2015, "with more feature films expected to continue the Star Wars saga and grow the franchise well into the future," a Disney statement said.
The deal "combines a world-class portfolio of content including Star Wars, one of the greatest family entertainment franchises of all time, with Disney's unique and unparalleled creativity," Disney chief Robert Iger said.
The transaction is valued at $US4.05 billion ($3.9 billion) based on current stock value, with Disney paying about half in cash and issuing approximately 40 million shares at closing.
Lucasfilm is 100 per cent owned by Lucas.
"Lucasfilm reflects the extraordinary passion, vision, and storytelling of its founder, George Lucas," Mr Iger said.
Mr Lucas himself, chairman and chief executive officer of Lucasfilm, added: "For the past 35 years, one of my greatest pleasures has been to see Star Wars passed from one generation to the next.
"It's now time for me to pass Star Wars on to a new generation of filmmakers.
"I've always believed that Star Wars could live beyond me, and I thought it was important to set up the transition during my lifetime."
"I'm confident that with Lucasfilm under the leadership of Kathleen Kennedy, and having a new home within the Disney organisation, Star Wars will certainly live on and flourish for many generations to come."
The first Star Wars film came out in 1977, and there have been two trilogies - three films from 1977-1983 and three prequels from 1999-2005 - while the brand has expanded into theme parks and a huge merchandising arm.
The movies have earned about $4.2 billion at the box office globally over the past 35 years, and offer "a virtually limitless universe of characters and stories to drive continued feature film releases," Disney said.
"The franchise provides a sustainable source of high-quality, branded content with global appeal and is well suited for new business models including digital platforms."
The acquisition comes after Disney's takeover of animated film giant Pixar and comic-book-character-driven Marvel Studios.
Those deals "demonstrated the company's unique ability to fully develop and expand the financial potential of high-quality, creative content with compelling characters and storytelling," Disney said.
Disney said Mr Lucas will be succeeded as head of Lucasfilm by current co-chairman Kathleen Kennedy who will report to Walt Disney Studios chairman Alan Horn.
"I'm confident that with Lucasfilm under the leadership of Kathleen Kennedy, and having a new home within the Disney organisation, Star Wars will certainly live on and flourish for many generations to come," Mr Lucas said.
"Disney's reach and experience give Lucasfilm the opportunity to blaze new trails in film, television, interactive media, theme parks, live entertainment, and consumer products."
|Liveleak on Facebook|