Disney expects to spend upward of $200 million on each new installment of Star Wars, significantly more than the budget for 2005's Revenge of the Sith, but in line with what most Hollywood studios pour into a blockbuster.
"We actually don't even have the completed budget yet," Walt Disney Studios Chairman Alan Horn told Bloomberg Television. "But it will be in that range. These large, tentpole kinds of movies, on the expensive side, are in the neighborhood of $175-200 million, that kind of a number -- some are more, some are less. We need to give the audience, essentially, a full meal in return for their affection and devotion and love for these properties."
He reiterated that casting is nearly complete, and confirmed reports that second-unit shooting has taken place in the United Arab Emirates and other locations, "because we have all these locations we have to film and we have to give it that Star Wars-ian look."
Star Wars creator George Lucas, who effectively retired after selling Lucasfilm to Disney in 2012 for $4.05 billion, remains involved with the franchise, although it would appear his role is fairly limited.
"George is a consultant," Horn explained. "The understanding is when he sold the company -- and he did sell the company to the Walt Disney Company -- so he's very aware of that. So we now are the primary drivers behind this property. But he is a very valued person. He's the father of all this. Kathy [Lucasfilm President Kathleen Kennedy] interacts with him, back and forth, I think."
Horn also said that while J.J. Abrams' Star Wars: Episode VII is scheduled to arrive Dec. 18, 2015, breaking from the series' May tradition, the studio isn't married to a holiday release for the subsequent installments.
"We may revert -- the Star Wars dates have been May -- and we may revert to that at some point," he said. "But it depends on the readiness of the screenplays and where we are. But this first one will be Dec, 18th of 2015. So we'll start with that and then we'll see."