You've probably seen Star Wars: The Force Awakens by now so you're probably clicking around the interwebs trying to see if you can still buy some sweet Kylo Ren gear in time for Christmas. You can, and you have the original Star Wars franchise to thank for that.
Up until the release of Star Wars: A New Hope, film merchandising never made a lot of money. From io9 blog:
Before Star Wars, toy companies waited to see if a movie was a hit before releasing a bunch of toys. The most popular licensed toys were based on TV shows and comic books. Mickey Mouse and his Disney friends had been cashing in since the 1930s. Comic strips like Popeye were popular and television shows like Star Trek and Superman, did well too. G.I. Joe was big, along with Barbie , and lots of the toys people still know and love today. But very few were from movies and even fewer, if any, were from movies currently in theaters.
Because excitment for Star Wars stuck around for so long, toys, games, and books hit the shelves when fans were hungry to own a part of that galaxy far, far away.
In fact, Star Wars was so popular in 1977 that Kenner, the original company that made the toys, sold carboard versions of their Star Wars products just to curb demand during the holiday toy rush:
Kenner famously sold an empty box called the "Early Bird Certificate Page." The box had no toys in it, just a few stickers and stuff along with a certificate kids could fill out and send in to be among the first to get Star Wars toys when they were released. It was a huge success.
The sale of Star Wars merchandise is something Disney probably thought about when it bought Lucasfilm in 2012 for $4.05 billion. According to Forbes.com, analysts say Star Wars merch will make around $3 billion in sales in 2015 alone:
"Since its introduction in the late '70s, Star Wars has been one of the biggest franchises for licensed products in the entertainment business," Marty Brochstein, senior vice president of industry relations and information for theInternational Licensing Industry Merchandisers Association, told Forbes. "But to my memory, the level of activity surrounding this film launch has never been seen in Star Wars history or with any other movie franchise."
For more on how the Star Wars economy works, watch "The Star Wars Economy is Bigger Than You Think."