A Box Office Force Awakens: A STAR WARS Timeline (Infographic)

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Credit: Disney/Lucasfilm

More than a mere blockbuster, the Star Wars franchise became a record-setting media empire. Six live-action films and a computer-animated movie have filled theaters. The franchises latest animated TV series is currently airing and profits from licensed merchandise have dwarfed box office revenue. An estimated $20 billion-plus worth of toys, clothing, prop replicas and other memorabilia have been sold since 1977.

And now Disney and Lucasfilm will extend the big-screen franchise with an ambitious plan for a new film every year starting with December's Star Wars: The Force Awakens that may keep the Force with us for another four decades.

But it all began in the early 1970s, when young filmmaker George Lucas wanted to bring back “Flash Gordon,” a space hero serial from the 1930s, as a feature film. Rights to the property could not be secured, so instead, Lucas decided to make a new fantasy film in the same spirit of swashbuckling adventure.?

“Star Wars” premiered on May 25, 1977, and captured the world’s attention. Such was the frenzy for souvenirs that fans snapped up 600,000 of Kenner Toys’ “Early Bird” sets. These were empty boxes containing a mail-in coupon for action figures that would be sent as soon as they were available.

Here's a graphic timeline recapping the first 38 years of the franchise:

Credit: Karl Tate
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