The first “Star Wars” movie to be made under Walt Disney Co. (DIS) has begun shooting in Abu Dhabi, according to Alan Horn, chairman of the company’s film division, who said the casting will be announced soon.
Horn spoke at a Bloomberg Business of Entertainment event today in New York, before heading to the U.K. with other Disney executives overseeing the project. Filming thus far has involved secondary scenes, he said. The U.K.’s Pinewood Studios will be the primary site, he said.
“We have to give it that ‘Star Wars’-ian look,” Horn said. “So we need to go to different places that give us the right look and feel.”
The movie, to be released in December 2015, will be the seventh “Star Wars” picture from Lucasfilm, purchased in 2012 by Disney in a $4.05 billion bet on the franchise created by George Lucas. Lucas is a consultant on the film, Horn said.
Disney’s studio chairman emphasized the importance of the faster-growing international box office in approving projects.
“The challenge is to have pictures that can travel,” Horn said. “We’ve learned that these tentpole movies are most desired all around the world.”
Horn has led a revival of the Walt Disney Studios, which include the company’s original live-action and animation businesses, along with Marvel and Pixar. Since his arrival in June 2012, two Disney films have topped $1 billion in worldwide ticket sales: “Iron Man 3” and “Frozen.” “Captain America: The Winter Soldier,” the latest Marvel superhero movie, has led the box office for three weeks.
Next month, Disney is scheduled to release the baseball movie “Million Dollar Arm,” starring “Mad Men” actor Jon Hamm. The film is testing “extremely well,” Horn said.
Another “Pirates of the Caribbean” film is possible, Horn said. While he hasn’t seen a screenplay he’s ready to approve, he’s “very confident” Disney will get one. The four pictures produced thus far generated worldwide ticket sales of $3.73 billion, according to Box Office Mojo, an industry researcher
Before joining Disney, Horn was president of Time Warner Inc.’s Warner Bros. for 12 years, where he co-lead the studio that made the “Harry Potter” and “Dark Knight” franchises.
Horn indicated Disney may revert to a May release for the two additional “Star Wars” films that are planned as part of the latest trilogy. The current production will have a “big tentpole movie budget,” he said.
Such films typically cost $175 million to $200 million, give or take, he said.
“We need to give the audience, essentially, a full meal in return for their affection and devotion and love for these properties.”
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