Lucasfilm has announced the release date for the last Star Wars film.  Episode III, as the yet-untitled film is currently known, will open on May 19, 2005.  Lucasfilm is planning a near simultaneous worldwide launch for the sixth and final Star Wars film.  The one major exception to the worldwide simultaneous release will be Japan, where the film will open in July, which has become the traditional month for Star Wars films to open in Japan.


As one of the most heavily licensed properties of all time, Star Wars presents retailers with boatloads of tie-in merchandise.  While the last two films have seen a diminution of the franchise's extraordinary merchandising pull, the finality of Episode III should have an energizing effect on collectors, now that the end is in sight.  Some licensees, such as Dark Horse, which produces original Star Wars comic book material, and WotC, which has the Star Wars CCG (and a new Star Wars CMG launching in September, see 'Star Wars CMG Pushed Back'), should be able to continue selling Star Wars items well past 2005, but interest in toys, posters, apparel etc. should start to build this September with the release of the original Star Wars Trilogy on DVD and then peak during 2005 with the theatrical and DVD releases of Episode III.