LOS ANGELES (AP) -- A decade after George Lucas said "Star Wars" was finished on the big screen, a new trilogy is destined for theaters after The Walt Disney Co. announced Tuesday that it was buying Lucasfilm Ltd. for $4.05 billion.
The seventh movie, with a working title of "Episode 7," is set for release in 2015. Episodes 8 and 9 will follow. The new trilogy will carry the story of Luke Skywalker, Han Solo and Princess Leia beyond "Return of the Jedi," the third film released and the sixth in the saga. After that, Disney plans a new "Star Wars" movie every two or three years. Lucas will serve as creative consultant in the new movies.
"For the past 35 years, one of my greatest pleasures has been to see Star Wars passed from one generation to the next," said Lucas, chairman and CEO of Lucasfilm Ltd. "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."
Disney CEO Bob Iger said Lucusfilm had already developed an extensive story line on the next trilogy, and Episode 7 was now in early-stage development.
The Walt Disney Co. announced the blockbuster agreement to buy Lucasfilm in cash and stock Tuesday. The deal includes Lucasfilm's prized high-tech production companies, Industrial Light & Magic and Skywalker Sound, as well as rights to the "Indiana Jones" franchise.
Iger said in a statement that the acquisition is a great fit and will help preserve and grow the "Star Wars" franchise.
"The last ‘Star Wars' movie release was 2005's ‘Revenge of the Sith' -- and we believe there's substantial pent-up demand," Iger said.
Kathleen Kennedy, the current co-chairman of Lucasfilm, will become the division's president and report to Walt Disney Studios Chairman Alan Horn.
The deal brings Lucasfilm under the Disney banner with other brands including Pixar, Marvel, ESPN and ABC, all companies that Disney has acquired over the years. A former weatherman who rose through the ranks of ABC, Iger has orchestrated some of the company's biggest acquisitions, including the $7.4 billion purchase of animated movie studio Pixar in 2006 and the $4.2 billion acquisition of comic book giant Marvel in 2009.
Disney shares were not trading with stock markets closed due to the impact of Superstorm Sandy in New York.