It Pays to Be a Jedi (Or Co-Star With One): How the ‘Star Wars’ Franchise Boosts Its Actors’ Careers

In December 2015, Star Wars: The Force Awakens grossed a record $529 million during its opening weekend, and the film brought in more than $2 billion at the box office. Disney, which bought the franchise in 2012 from creator George Lucas for $4 billion, learned some economic lessons from its Episode VII windfall. One was about release dates. Two years later, Episode VIII, The Last Jedi, will open this Friday with a projected $440 million in box office sales.

The Force Awakens cast has reaped the benefits of their association with Episode VII’s success, ranging from short-term impacts like renegotiated salaries for Episode VIII to long-term career impacts from being a part of the Star Wars franchise. 

The Star Wars saga’s success exemplifies the power of predictive analytics in Hollywood today, since analysts can use past data — including how well the genre has performed, the popularity of starring actors, and turnout for previous installments in a series — to better project box office revenue, strategically cast characters, and make funding decisions, such as actors’ salaries and marketing budgets.

In the data visualization below, we look at 24 actors who have starred in one or more of the franchise’s films, and compare their Star Wars-related revenue to their lifetime box office revenue. With The Last Jedi’s release, the film’s actors will likely see a boost in not only their franchise box office revenue but also their overall career box office take, particularly as filmmakers continue to use predictive analytics to be more strategic about casting decisions.

Though, as Yoda said, “Always in motion is the future and many possible futures there are.”

infographic showing analytics of Star Wars

Read the text-only version of this graphic.

Numbers updated as of April 5, 2017. View the original version of this graphic.

Suggested citation: Analytics@American, American University’s online Master of Science in Analytics program.