Making A Killing

Like the death star closing in on the Rebel Base, the goodies for Episode I are ready to attack. Two of the first three toys have been in stores for three months, selling like crazy. The STAP and Battle Droid (about $18) is an evil robot on a jet-powered pogo stick. (These guys apparently attack Queen Amidala's palace.) The Gian Speeder and Theed Palace playset (about $20) features the queen's parking lot and a sleek purple craft that shoots missiles, with tiny figures of her protector, Captain Panaka, and more of those mean robots. The third toy, a four-inch Mace Windu (the Jedi played by Samuel L. Jackson), is a premium; it was available only last October through December, and you had to send Hasbro six bar codes from "Star Wars" toy packages and $2.99 to get it. A "Star Wars" specialty store in France did just that. It's now selling its Mace Windu figurines for $60 a pop (compared with a $10,000 Darth Vader statue, they're a bargain). Everything else--almost every character, vehicle and weapon will have a toy--is rumored to be hitting international store shelves two weeks before the movie opens in each market.

Over the last 22 years, "Star Wars" merchandise has tallied an estimated $4.5 billion in global sales. About half of that came from toys, the rest from books, soundtracks and anything else you can stamp a logo on. Last year Hasbro, the world's second biggest toymaker, bought No. 3 Galoob, consolidating every major "Star Wars" toy license. Analysts think Hasbro could ring up more than $5 billion in retail sales from the three prequels. That doesn't count the toys Lego will make (it's the company's first license) or computer games from Nintendo and Lucas's own LucasArts.

Lucas is also getting $2 billion in a promotional deal with PepsiCo, which means Episode I stuff on soft drinks, on Frito-Lay chips and in Taco Bell, Kentucky Fried Chicken and Pizza Hut restaurants. The Dark Side for retailers would be the "Godzilla" scenario--overhyped movies with loads of unsold product. But this is "Star Wars," the franchise that practically invented entertainment licensing. "The revenues from products tied to the first of the prequels will exceed any first-year movie revenues on merchandise in the history of Hollywood," says Sean McGowan, a toy analyst at Gerard Klauer Mattison & Co. We'll buy that.