LOS ANGELES — Disney is billing a new entertainment experience as a free “treasure hunt” for “Star Wars” fans. With any luck, of course, Disney will be collecting the real loot.
Starting on Sept. 1, Disney will begin rolling out merchandise tied to “Star Wars: The Last Jedi,” which arrives in theaters on Dec. 15. To spur foot traffic — no easy thing in this retail age, even for “Star Wars” — the company has come up with a promotional stunt that is striking in its breadth: Some 20,000 stores in 30 countries will offer an augmented reality event that will allow participants to uncover “Last Jedi” characters.
You download the “Star Wars” smartphone app and head to the mall. Participating stores (the list is available on StarWars.com and includes Best Buy, Apple, Kohl’s and Petco) will have a placard on display that says “Find the Force.” Point your phone at the placard with the “Star Wars” app open. One of 15 “Last Jedi” characters, including two never before seen, will appear in the room. They might even talk.
If you come back the next day, the same display will reveal a different character. The app allows you to take photos of the characters, record videos and share the experience on social media. Anyone who does so via Twitter or Instagram (using certain hashtags) by Sept. 3 is entered in a sweepstakes. The grand prize is attending the “Last Jedi” premiere.
Disney, which announced the event in the middle of the night on Thursday, is trying to do three things: sell a ton of “Star Wars” merchandise; activate the “Star Wars” fan base in support of the new movie; and draw in new fans, particularly younger ones captivated by technology. Augmented reality had its breakout moment last summer, when the smartphone game Pokémon Go became a national craze.
“We are excited that augmented reality will allow fans to experience the universe in a whole new way,” Kathleen Kennedy, the president of Lucasfilm, said in a statement. Lucasfilm is the Disney-owned studio that handles all “Star Wars” matters.