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Disney to buy firm behind Star Wars franchise

Disney has struck a four-billion-dollar deal to buy Lucasfilm, the studio behind the famous "Star Wars" franchise. The entertainment giant said it plans to release a seventh Star Wars film in 2015.

Disney announced the deal to buy George Lucas' renowned film studio on Tuesday along with a promise to make more films in the legendary sci-fi series.

"Star Wars 7" will be released in 2015, "with more feature films expected to continue the Star Wars saga and grow the franchise well into the future," said Disney CEO Robert Iger.

"This transaction 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."

The deal has been valued at $4.05 billion (3.1 billion euros), based on current stock value. Disney is reportedly paying about half in cash and issuing approximately 40 million shares for the remainder. Lucasfilm is owned solely by George Lucas, 68.

"For the past 35 years, one of my greatest pleasures has been to see Star Wars passed from one generation to the next," Lucas said in a statement. "It's now time for me to pass Star Wars on to a new generation of filmmakers."

The Star Wars franchise is one of the most successful in Hollywood history. Since the first movie was released in 1977, the series has earned some $4.4 billion at the global box office.

The acquisition by Disney follows its takeover of Marvel Entertainment for 4 billion dollars in 2009 and Pixar Animation Studios for 7.6 billion dollars in 2006.

ccp/jm (AFP, dpa)