It all started with a story treatment, handwritten in pencil on a few sheets of lined yellow legal paper.
That's all that existed of the multibillion-dollar financial empire, now known as the Star Wars universe, when filmmaker George Lucas sat down in 1974 to write what, within three years, would be the biggest meteor to hit Hollywood since there's been a Hollywood.
The “Star Wars” motion picture saga ended in May 2005, with the debut of the sixth movie in the series, “Revenge of the Sith”. Its release was complemented by more merchandising tie-ins than there are Ewoks on Endor — a tradition, nearly three decades old, that has generated a whole lot of cash.
While Lucas himself has done very well — he's personally worth $3.5 billion, according to our ranking of the world's richest people — the amount of money generated by the Star Wars franchise over the course of its lifetime is about equivalent to the 2004 gross domestic product of Panama — over $20 billion.
By all indications, the tradition will continue. There might not be more movies on the way, but Lucas will continue to pull in revenue from the existing franchise. And new money-making material is constantly being added to the Star Wars universe.
Hasbro, which has the rights to produce Star Wars toys, will produce new play sets and action figures. LucasArts, the video game side of the Lucas operation, continually cranks out Star Wars releases for Sony's PlayStation 2 and Microsoft's Xbox systems. And there are books, DVDs and even plans for TV shows.